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How Ben Hansbrough eviscerated Pittsburgh's vaunted defense

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Three straight double-digit road losses saddled Notre Dame with the reputation for not being able to beat good teams away from home, so the Irish entered Monday night's game in Pittsburgh motivated to shed that stigma.

They accomplished that goal by defeating the No. 2 team in the nation in arguably the Big East's most hostile venue, storming to a 56-51 victory over a Pittsburgh team that had only previously lost one game.

One of the keys to the victory were the eight points Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough scored in the final five minutes to subdue Pittsburgh's hopes of a late comeback. I'll outline below how the Irish freed Hansbrough utilizing the same high screen and roll on five straight possessions, four of which resulted in buckets and the fifth in a wide-open 3-pointer that clanged off the rim.

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1. Notre Dame 47, Pittsburgh 45 (4:33)

Hansbrough comes around a Scott Martin top-of-the-key screen, which Pittsburgh switches, leaving 6-foot-10, 250-pound Gary McGhee guarding the ball. Because McGhee is wary of being beaten off the dribble, he backs off the smaller, quicker Hansbrough, allowing the Notre Dame guard to bury an open 18-footer to extend the lead to four.

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2. Notre Dame 49, Pittsburgh 47 (3:42)

When Martin sets an identical top-of-the-key screen on Notre Dame's next possession, McGhee again switches onto Hansbrough but this time defends him all the way out to the 3-point arc. Recognizing this, Hansbrough adjusts and drives right past him, taking advantage of a lack of help defense to make an easy layup and again push the lead back to four.

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3. Notre Dame 51, Pittsburgh 49 (2:33)

The adjustment Pittsburgh makes this time on the identical high ball screen is to have McGhee hedge on the screen to keep Hansbrough from turning the corner and give guard Ashton Gibbs time to recover. Gibbs actually gets good position, yet Hansbrough freezes him with a hesitation dribble and blows by him anyway for another layup to make it a two-possession game once more.

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4. Notre Dame 54, Pittsburgh 51 (0:57)

In an effort to make the high screen and roll less effective, Pittsburgh removes McGhee from the game so that the five defenders on the floor are better able to switch on a screen. It's Notre Dame forward Tyrone Nash setting the high ball screen leaving 6-foot-5 forward Nasir Robinson on Hansbrough. Recognizing that Robinson is playing him to drive, Hansbrough pulls up from 3-point range but misses off the back rim.

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5. Notre Dame 54, Pittsburgh 51 (0:18)

Nash sets one final top-of-the-key screen and Pittsburgh defends it the same way, switching Robinson onto Hansbrough. Even though Nash's screen is not as well executed this time, Hansbrough drives on Robinson, spins in the lane and clinches the upset with another layup.

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