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Bluff's Hansbrough burns ND with 39 points in win
The Mules escaped Notre Dame with a 78-76 victory.
Shutting down Poplar Bluff star Ben Hansbrough is nearly impossible.
Notre Dame coach Paul Hale had hoped the Bulldogs could slow down Hansbrough enough to pull off a SEMO Conference win at home on Friday.
But Hansbrough posted a career-high 39 points, as the visiting Mules knocked off Notre Dame 78-76.
"He's a good player," Hale said. "He just took over in the fourth quarter. We had an eight-point lead and we couldn't stop him."
Notre Dame (20-3) went to the free throw line five straight possessions midway through the fourth quarter and opened a 67-60 lead. After a free throw by Ryan Willen gave the Bulldogs the seven-point edge, Hansbrough went on to score the next 14 points for Poplar Bluff to push the Mules back in front.
"I felt I had to do what I had to do to win the game," Hansbrough said.
Poplar Bluff regained the lead 71-69 with 1:45 remaining, but Notre Dame senior Kirk Boeller put the Bulldogs back on top 72-71 with a 3-pointer. Hansbrough answered right back with a deep 3-pointer to give the Mules a 74-72 lead, a lead the Mules would not surrender.
Over the final 2:35 of the fourth quarter, Hansbrough hit three 3-pointers, all of which came from about NBA range with defenders in his face. Hansbrough had hit just one 3-pointer in the first 28 minutes of the game.
"It's not like I don't have that weapon," Hansbrough said. "It's when we need it, it comes out."
Notre Dame had chances to build on its lead during Hansbrough's run, but several turnovers proved killers.
"I think that was the difference in the game," Hale said.
Boeller failed to convert on a pair of shots after Hansbrough's 3-pointer before Bluff's Kevin Hutson, who was little-used in Friday's game, hit two of two free throws to push the lead to 76-72. After two free throws by Willen, Allan Spencer hit two free throws to clinch the win for the Mules.
"It's good going into district to play a game like this," Hale said. "We faced as good a player in the area [as we've seen], and he showed his wears."
Willen led the Bulldogs with 19 points, with all 10 of his second-half points coming in the fourth quarter. Boeller scored 16 and Alex Ressel had 15.
"Ryan's a good player," Hale said. "He's going to be special in a few years. He's steady."
Hansbrough did much more than score for the Mules. Nearly every play ran through Hansbrough, with the 6-foot-3 guard's penetration creating easy baskets for his teammates.
"I love getting other people involved," Hansbrough said. "I feel if they try to key on me, I'll get other people involved."
Ricky Taylor was the recipient of many of those Hansbrough passes, finishing with 15 points. No other Poplar Bluff player had more than six points.
Through all of Hansbrough's penetration, the Bulldogs were unable to draw a single charge call against him.
"We don't do a real good job doing that," Hale said. "I wish we did."
Notre Dame scored the game's first five points before the Mules were able to gain their footing. There were five lead changes in the opening quarter and two ties.
There were another six lead-changes in the second quarter as the teams ended the half deadlocked at 39-39.
Poplar Bluff 78, Notre Dame 76
POPLAR BLUFF (78) -- Ben Hansbrough 39, Rusty Bryant 4, Allan Spencer 6, Ricky Taylor 15, Jimmy Dye 6, Kevin Hutson 2, Jack March 6. FG 28, FT 18-20, F 19 (3-pointers: Hansbrough 4. Fouled out: none)
NOTRE DAME (76) -- Ryan Willen 19, Kirk Boeller 16, Alex Ressel 15, Xavier Delph 6, Frankie Ellis 11, Ty Williams 6, Abe Dirnberger 2, Logan Haines 1. FG 28, FT 16-23, F 20 (3-pointers: Boeller 4. Fouled out: Delph)
JV -- Notre Dame 68, Poplar Bluff 41