Notre Dame's ability to hang on for a 70-68 victory over No. 8 West Virginia on Saturday wouldn't have happened a week ago, at least in Irish guard Ben Hansbrough's mind.
Hansbrough, who didn't play last season after transferring from Mississippi State, said the 82-70 loss at Connecticut on Jan. 2 and 74-73 win at South Florida on Tuesday helped prepare the Irish (14-3, 3-1 Big East) to hold off the Mountaineers (12-2, 3-1)
"I think the quality of Big East basketball that we play has extended dramatically," Hansbrough said. "Playing against good teams on the road line UConn just makes us better. … One thing I forgot about is how hard it is to win on the road and how hard it is to play."
Notre Dame needed everything it learned from those conference road games against West Virginia.
The Irish, who could do no wrong in the first half, let a 45-25 halftime lead get whittled down all the way to 67-66 with 4:49 to play.
But Notre Dame, which shot 75 percent in the first half but only 26.3 percent in the second, found away to hold off West Virginia, which shot 25 percent in the first half but 53.1 percent in the second half.
"Big East basketball," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "We got off to a great start. I don't know if we've played 20 better minutes, but like every Big East game, I figured we were going to have to hold them off. Because they are pretty darn good. We figured out a way to win a close game."