CHICAGO (AP) — Ben Hansbrough scored 15 points despite another sub-par shooting game and Tim Abromaitis added 14 as second-seeded Notre Dame fought off scrappy Akron for a 69-56 second-round victory Friday in the Southwest Regional.
Notre Dame (27-6) will meet the winner of Florida State-Texas A&M on Sunday at the United Center.
The Irish led 34-30 at the half before scoring the first nine points of the second to build their lead to double digits and then held off the cold-shooting Zips.
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, hit just 4-of-11 from the field but was 6-for-6 from the line and had six assists.
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.
Quincy Diggs led Akron with 11 points. The Zips shot only 35.9 percent and 7-foot center Zeke Marshall was just 2-for-13 from the floor.
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 by four at the half, Tyrone Nash’s three-point play and Scott Martin’s jumper got the Irish off to a quick second-half start. A middle-of-the-lane jumper by Carleton Scott and another basket by Martin put the Irish up 43-30 as Akron missed its first eight shots of the half.
Darryl Roberts finally connected on a 3-pointer for the Zips after they’d gone scoreless in the first 5:20 of the second half, but now the deficit they’d worked down to four at halftime was a big one again and it went back to 12 when Martin hit another jumper. Martin scored 9 of his 11 in the second half for the Irish.
But the Zips ran off seven straight points and stayed within five when Marshall — 1-for-11 from the field at that point — dropped in a basket off an inbounds pass with just more than 10 minutes to go.
Abromaitis then sank a 3-pointer and Scott hit a jumper from the baseline, was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 55-44 lead.
In the first half, Hansbrough started a 10-0 spurt with a jumper and capped it with a 3-pointer that gave the Irish a 16-6 lead against the slow-starting Zips.
Akron misfired on 11 of its first 13 field goal attempts and 7-foot Zeke Marshall was 0-for-6 early, including a missed slam dunk attempt.
With Akron clamping down as Hansbrough tried to drive, he twice kicked out to freshman guard Eric Atkins, who hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Akron worked the deficit to five when Diggs hit a 3-pointer but Scott answered with a long one from NBA range and Hansbrough drove for a layup after a steal by Martin and the lead went right back to 10.
But the Zips kept scrapping, playing tough defense and when Alex Abreu hit a 3-pointer Akron was right there, trailing 34-30 with about a minute and a half left in the half.