Hot-shooting Notre Dame eases past Cincinnati

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Notre Dame knew the 3-pointers wouldn't continue to fall at the rate they did early in Monday night's game at Cincinnati, when the Fighting Irish made six of their first eight attempts.

When they finally cooled off from beyond the arc in the second half, the Irish maintained their poise.

"The 3-pointer was not going to do it for us in the second half," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We had to get some other stuff. That's where our experience came through."

No. 17 Notre Dame, which had five players score in double figures and shot 50 percent from the field, earned a 66-60 victory over No. 21 Cincinnati before 10,293 fans at Fifth Third Arena.

Jerian Grant led the Irish with 19 points, and Scott Martin added 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 Big East) finished 9-for-16 from 3-point range, led by Martin, who was 4-for-7 on long-distance shots. Jack Cooley added 11 points for the Irish, who got 10 points apiece from Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton.

"I think we have the best backcourt in the country, I really do," Brey said. "Defense (on the perimeter) was the difference. We made (Cincinnati) more of a 2-point shooting team in the second half. To win a game on the road against a very good team is gratifying."

Sean Kilpatrick hit three 3-pointers and scored 15 points for Cincinnati (13-3, 1-2 Big East).

The Bearcats, who were coming off a 53-52 loss on Saturday to St. John's in which they shot just 31.7 percent, played better on offense Monday night. They recorded 18 assists on 23 baskets, and they outrebounded Notre Dame 28-23.

However, they couldn't overcome the hot-shooting Irish. Notre Dame made seven consecutive 3-pointers in one stretch, including six straight to close the first half.

"We just didn't do a lot of rotating (on defense)," Kilpatrick said. "They hit a lot of shots with the shot clock running down."

The Irish were 8-for-11 from beyond the arc after Grant hit a 3-pointer to put them ahead 40-29 early in the second half. However, Cincinnati roared back to take a 47-45 lead on Ge'Lawn Guyn's 3-pointer with fewer than 13 minutes left.

After the Bearcats took the lead, the Irish responded with a 10-0 run to regain control. Martin's fourth 3-pointer put the Irish ahead 62-51.

Cincinnati, which shot 9-for-21 from 3-point range, has a three-game home losing streak for the first time since 2007.

Kilpatrick scored seven of the Bearcats' first 12 points, including a 3-pointer that put Cincinnati ahead 12-9.

"There were some things I was proud of tonight," said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who openly criticized his team's effort following the loss to St. John's. "We (would have) had to play really well to win tonight; we weren't going to outscore them. I'm used to people second-guessing me and our team. I guess we're back to where we're comfortable."

Cooley, who leads the Big East Conference in field-goal percentage and rebounding, scored the first six points for the Irish.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Jaquon Parker, sandwiched around Cheikh Mbodj's block of Cooley's shot attempt, put Cincinnati ahead 20-11. Parker and Kilpatrick led the Bearcats with seven points each in the first half.

Cincinnati hit five of 15 attempts from 3-point range before halftime. Notre Dame, meanwhile, went 6-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half, including two 3-pointers apiece from Connaughton and Martin.

"There were a lot of bounces we didn't get," Kilpatrick said. "We just have to remind ourselves it's not December anymore. It's the Big East now. Everybody on their roster can play."

NOTES: The Fighting Irish planned to stay overnight in Cincinnati, where they had a private room reserved at the team hotel to watch the school's football team face Alabama in the BCS national championship game. .. Bearcats guard Cashmere Wright recorded his 426th career assist, moving him past Cincinnati legend Oscar Robertson into sole possession of fourth place on the school's all-time list. Wright had five points and eight assists against Notre Dame. .. University of Cincinnati president Santa J. Ono shaved his head following Monday's game, fulfilling his promise to do so if the Bearcats won 10 games in a row. Cincinnati began the season with 12 consecutive victories.
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