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Hansbrough, Notre Dame advance past Akron

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Hansbrough, Notre Dame advance past Akron

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 3:31 p.m. Updated 5:27 p.m.Associated Press

CHICAGO - Notre Dame's pace was off. The Irish were overanxious at the beginning of their NCAA opener, knowing that as a second seed they were expected to win against Akron.

Leading the scrappy Zips by four at the break, the Irish scored the first nine of the second half to build a more comfortable lead and then held on for a 69-56 victory Friday in the second round of the Southwest Regional.

"It took us a long time to kind of calm down. I'm glad the halftime was 20 minutes because we needed all of it just to kind of ratchet our blood pressure down a little bit," coach Mike Brey said.

"We were better in the second half because our tempo was better."

Ben Hansbrough, whom Brey said was playing too fast in the first 20 minutes, finished with 15 points. Tim Abromaitis added 14, Scott Martin pitched in 9 of his 11 points in the second half and Carleton Scott tied his high with 14 rebounds.

Next up for the Irish (27-6) is Florida State (22-10), after the Seminoles defeated Texas A&M, 57-50.

Martin - a transfer from Purdue who sat out two seasons, one after blowing out his knee - was a key in the second half, scoring six early points and getting the Irish on track.

"I think the great thing about it is that we played bad in the first half and we got better," Martin said. "Something we can take away from it is that we improved in the game and now we're back to where we should be and hopefully it will continue from here."

Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year who shot just 3-for-16 in a loss to Louisville in the semifinals of the conference tourney, was just 4-of-11 from the field but was 6-for-6 from the line and had six assists.

"I thought he forced plays at times in the first half. In the second half, his decision making was excellent, and it helped us flow," Brey said.

The 15th-seeded Zips (23-13) were appearing in just their third NCAA Division I tournament and second in three years. Entering the game, they'd won 11 of their previous 13, beating Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament to get into the tournament.

Their defense played Notre Dame's motion offense tough, especially with 7-footer Zeke Marshall there to block four shots and change the trajectory of numerous others.

"We fought back. We just couldn't put enough baskets together on a continuous basis to win," Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. "That's what a mid-major has to do to beat a high major with a seed that high is you have to shoot the ball better than that, really.

"We felt like we got good shots even from the outside that just didn't go in for us tonight. We thought we could score on them, but we just didn't. I thought it was going to be a bigger challenge to guard them, and we actually did a decent job."

Quincy Diggs led Akron with 11 points. The Zips shot only 35.9 percent and Marshall was just 2-for-13 from the floor.

"I had four 2-foot layups I missed in the early part of the game. I don't really recall that it was their defense that caused me to miss. It was just me missing," said Marshall, who also couldn't get a dunk to go down.

The Irish had a huge advantage at the foul line, shooting 20-for-26 to just 3-for-6 for the Zips.

With Notre Dame up 34-30 at the half, Tyrone Nash's three-point play and Martin's jumper got the Irish off to a quick start. A middle-of-the-lane jumper by Scott and another basket by Martin put the Irish up 43-30 as Akron missed its first eight shots of the half.

The Zips later ran off seven straight points to get back in it. They stayed within five when Marshall - 1-for-11 from the field at that point - dropped in a basket off an inbound pass with just more than 10 minutes to go.

Abromaitis, who got off only two shots in the first half, then sank his second 3-pointer and Scott hit a jumper from the baseline, was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 55-44 lead.

"I think with Abromaitis, he is a pretty steady guy," Brey said. "You just let him play. Those were two big shots he hit. We needed key buckets there."

Box Score

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."

Tim Anderson helped off field with ankle sprain, will be reevaluated Wednesday

Tim Anderson helped off field with ankle sprain, will be reevaluated Wednesday

White Sox fans saw a sight they hoped they'd never see Tuesday night.

Tim Anderson was helped off the field with an ankle injury in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, hurt while making a play on a ground ball on a wet night in Massachusetts.

The White Sox announced later in the evening that Anderson has a sprained ankle and that X-rays were negative. The team added that Anderson will be reevaluated Wednesday.

Anderson made an on-the-run throw to nab J.D. Martinez at first base, but a play that Anderson has made look fairly routine over the past couple seasons this time included a slip on the rain-soaked infield. The White Sox star shortstop fell to the ground in pain immediately. After having his ankle briefly checked by the trainer, Anderson was helped off the field, into the dugout and into the clubhouse.

The rain poured down on Fenway Park on Tuesday night. The start of the game was delayed a half hour, but the teams played through steady rains throughout, worsening playing conditions, something the White Sox and every team across baseball have had to deal with quite often this season.

The degree of Anderson's ankle sprain is unknown, but the sight of him coming off the field was a nightmarish one for the White Sox and their fans. A sigh of relief came with the team's update, which did not include the words "Achilles" or "tear."

Anderson has emerged as one of the faces of the franchise this season, earning AL Player of the Month honors after a sensational April and earning national attention for flipping his bat after home runs and his mission to make what he calls a "boring" game more fun. He's got a .317/.342/.491 slash line on the season.

Anderson is undoubtedly a core piece for the rebuilding White Sox, who can pen him in as their shortstop of the future as well as the present.

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