The Fighting Irish seek a better defensive effort against Jeremy Hazell and Big East rival Seton Hall as the Pirates play at South Bend on Saturday.
Brooks became the 13th player to score at least 20 points against the ninth-ranked Irish (22-5, 11-4) this season, blistering them for 52 on 20-of-28 shooting Wednesday. Despite that Big East record-setting effort, Notre Dame kept its hold on second place in the conference with a 94-93 win as Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis added a season-best 28.
“I’m thrilled that we escaped with a win,” said coach Mike Brey after Brooks also set a single-game record for points allowed by the Irish. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a performance like that by a young man. That was outstanding.”
Hansbrough has been pivotal in keeping Notre Dame in the running for the Big East title and a double bye for the upcoming conference tournament. He has averaged 23.0 points in the last eight games, shooting 54.4 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range in that 7-1 stretch as part of his bid to be Big East player of the year.
“Ben was in a rhythm and because the ball got into the post and then kicked out, he was getting clean looks,” Brey told the team’s official website Wednesday.
Notre Dame is second in the conference with 204 3-pointers and third in scoring at 75.7 points per game.
Defensively, however, the Irish are 15th in the 16-team Big East in opponent 3-point percentage (36.0) and must contend with Hazell, a career 34.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc whose 2,053 points are six shy of Greg Tynes for third on Seton Hall’s all-time list.
The senior guard is averaging a team-high 18.9 points despite missing 13 games due to both a wrist injury in November and a gunshot wound under the armpit suffered in December. Hazell became the all-time leader in 3-pointers made in Big East games with 192 and finished with 23 points last Saturday, but the Pirates (11-16, 5-10) lost 73-64 at Marquette as they were outrebounded 40-22.
“Just playing hard and never giving up and being the player that I am,” Hazell said when asked about passing Notre Dame’s Colin Falls for the 3-point mark.
Hazell has averaged 22.0 points in four games versus the Irish, but only 13.5 in two meetings outside of New Jersey. He went 3 for 12 and finished with 12 points in an 88-79 loss in his only game at Notre Dame during the 2008-09 season.
Notre Dame has won 10 of 12 between the teams, including a 68-56 victory in the second round of last year’s Big East tournament despite only a combined 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting from Hansbrough and Abromaitis.
Hazell was 5 for 16 in that defeat for Seton Hall, which has lost five straight in South Bend since a 74-64 win Feb. 18, 2001.