WASHINGTON (AP)—Luke Harangody can rest up and rest easy.
Notre Dame is back at .500 in the Big East, winning like a team bound for the NCAA tournament and doing it all without its injured big man.
Ben Hansbrough scored 21 points, Tim Abromaitis had 19 and Notre Dame has thrust itself back into the NCAA tournament picture with a 78-64 win over No. 11 Georgetown on Saturday, its second straight win over a Top 25 team.
The Fighting Irish (19-10, 8-8) have looked like a Big East contender the last two games without Harangody. Harangody missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise on his right knee.
“We miss that inside presence and we have to find different ways to score,” Abromaitis said.
The Irish knocked off No. 12 Pittsburgh by 15 on Wednesday and controlled this one from the tip to win its first road game over a ranked team in more than two years.
“We put on a clinic sometimes with how to play, how to pass the basketball,” Hansbrough said. “We guarded, we defended and we did what it took to win.”
Hansbrough scored the first 10 points of the second half to bust open this win after Carleton Scott nearly had a career game in the first 20 minutes. Tory Jackson and Tyrone Nash combined for 17 points.
Scott had 17 points, nine rebounds and set the tone with aggressive, hustling play that the Hoyas (19-8, 9-7) just didn’t have with any consistency. The Irish had a 29-20 edge on the boards, and boxed out on almost every shot.
Greg Monroe scored 15 points, and Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark each scored 12 for the Hoyas. Georgetown leading scorer Austin Freeman (17.5 points) was limited to five points in only 23 minutes and had a bout of stomach flu.
Hansbrough turned a tight game at halftime into a second straight Big East romp.
He unexpectedly went off with two layups, two 3-pointers and the first 10 points of the second half—all in less than 3 minutes—to give the Irish a 41-30 lead. He scored two points on only three shots in the first 20 minutes.
“My team just really needed to get on a run,” Hansbrough said.
One fan kept shouting at him, “You’re not your brother! You’re not your brother!”
Maybe not, but he didn’t have to be former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. Ben Hansbrough was doing fine on his own.
“I think Hansbrough’s plays at the start of the second half were deflating because we came out excited, ready to play, and they got two layups and two or three 3s,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
Jack Cooley went underneath for two easy buckets, his first points of the game, that stretched the lead to 50-38.
Then the Hoyas finally got rolling on a series of plays that seemed to go against them in the first half. Clark hit a 3 and Georgetown took a charge on Notre Dame’s possession. Julian Vaughn went inside for a basket that brought the Verizon Center crowd to their feet for the first time since the opening minutes.
Georgetown forced a shot clock violation and Thompson came down for a 3 that made it 50-46.
The party was over just as fast as it started.
The Irish—who shot 36 percent from 3-point range—got three clutch ones in a row that crippled the Hoyas. Jackson, Scott and Hansbrough all made theirs for a 59-49 lead.
Hansbrough then crashed into the pole on a wild layup and made the free throw to all but seal the win.
The Irish shot 71 percent (15 for 21) in the second half to thwart the Hoyas.
“We’re just really starting to feel the flow of each other,” Hansbrough said.
Scott was everywhere on the court early, busting through a tower of Hoya defenders to grab rebounds. He had a career game in the first half thanks to a pair of 3-pointers that gave him 12 points—three more than his previous high. His six rebounds were five off his personal best.
He had made only 10 3-pointers all season then hit two early that helped Notre Dame open a lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. Abromaitis had nine points in the first half to help the Irish take a 31-27 lead at halftime.
This isn’t the same Irish team that lost games against Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s. They hope it’s not too late to be a part of the 65-team field.
“It’s impossible to ignore when you’re hearing it on TV and everyone’s talking about it,” Abromaitis said. “But we know the selection show isn’t tomorrow. We have more work to do.”
The Irish have games left against Connecticut and at Marquette before the Big East tournament. A 10-8 record in conference play would practically make them a lock to secure at least an at-large bid.
“I’m just really proud of this group since we lost Luke Harangody,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We really played like heck and tried to figure out the best way to play without him. I think we’ve embraced that, certainly offensively.”