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Notre Dame stars take top Big East awards

Big East Tournament

At Madison Square Garden

Tuesday — First round

No. 9 Connecticut 97, No. 16 DePaul 71

No. 13 Rutgers 76, No. 12 Seton Hall 70, OT

No. 15 South Florida 70, No. 10 Villanova 69

No. 11 Marquette 87, No. 14 Providence 66

Today — Second round­ (all games on ESPN)

No. 8 Georgetown vs. No. 9 Connecticut, 11 a.m.

No. 5 St. John’s vs. No. 13 Rutgers, 1 p.m.

No. 7 Cincinnati vs. No. 15 South Florida, 6 p.m.

No. 6 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Marquette, 8 p.m.

Thursday — Quarterfinals (all games on ESPN)

No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. Georgetown/UConn winner, 11 a.m.

No. 4 Syracuse vs. St. John’s/Rutgers winner, 1 p.m.

No. 2 Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati/S. Fla. winner, 6 p.m.

No. 3 Louisville vs. W. Virginia/Marquette winner, 8 p.m.

Friday — Semifinals, 6 and 8 p.m., ESPN

Saturday — Championship, 8 p.m., ESPN

A season of unexpected rewards keeps getting better for Notre Dame’s basketball team.

On Saturday, the Irish (25-5, 14-4) beat Connecticut for the first time on the Huskies’ home floor to finish second in the Big East behind Pittsburgh.

On Monday, the Irish jumped four spots to No. 4 in the AP basketball poll.

And Tuesday in New York, senior guard Ben Hansbrough was named the Big East player of the year, Mike Brey was named the Big East coach of the year and senior forward Tim Abromaitis was named the Big East scholar athlete of the year for the second consecutive season.

It was an impressive haul for a team that was regarded lightly after the Irish lost seniors Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson off last season’s team. Notre Dame was picked to finish seventh in the Big East in the preseason. Hansbrough was not among the top 14 players listed on the preseason All-Big East teams.

Hansbrough, whose brother Tyler was the ACC and national player of the year at North Carolina in 2008, averaged 18.5 points and 4.2 assists.

But it was his consistency, resiliency and determination that put him over the top. Hansbrough was third in the Big East in scoring (20.7 points per game), was in double figures in 17 of 18 league games and finished strong. Hansbrough averaged 24.7 points in Notre Dame’s last four games, shooting 67.3 percent from the field (33-for-49) and 65.4 percent on three-point shots (17-for-26).

Brey won the Big East coaching award for the third time. He also won in 2007 and 2008. Only Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (1984, 1991, 2000, 2010) and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun (1990, 1994, 1996, 1998) have won more.

But Hansbrough and Brey have their eyes on more important things this week at the Big East tournament. Notre Dame never has won the tourney but is the No. 2 seed heading into Thursday night’s quarterfinal against the winner of tonight’s Cincinnati-South Florida second-round game.

Hansbrough transferred to Notre Dame from Mississippi State after his sophomore season in 2008. It couldn’t have worked out better for both sides. Not so far, anyway.

‘‘I left a school I wasn’t particularly happy with and came here to find almost a perfect fit,’’ Hansbrough said. ‘‘It’s something special to play for Notre Dame and have these teammates and a coach that is different from any other coach in the country. [Brey] cares about his guys. He talks to us like he’s our father sometimes. I think that’s really special.’’

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