No. 25 Irish rout Cincinnati 62-41
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Since peaking at No. 17 earlier this month, Cincinnati now finds itself on the NCAA tourney bubble after losing five of its last six Big East games.
Sunday was another long day for the Bearcats, who lost 62-41 to No. 25 Notre Dame.
The Irish dominated them on the boards, outrebounding Cincinnati 43-27, and used tenacious defense to hold them to just 32 percent shooting from the field.
Sean Kilpatrick, averaging 18 points per game, was often double-teamed and managed six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"There are a lot of things that have got to be changed because this season is going down the drain," Kilpatrick said.
"The important thing for us was running him off the three-point line," said Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, who led the Irish with 13 points. "About 70 percent of his shots are three's, so we forced him into tough two's in order to stop him."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey credited his defenders' ability to move their feet.
"I thought we did a great job staying in front of people who wanted to beat us off the dribble, and we did a great job keeping it to one-and-done," Brey said. "Maybe we're finding our identity here on that defensive end of the floor and rebounding the basketball."
Notre Dame's conference title hopes looked slim a month ago when team captain Scott Martin went out with a knee injury. But in his absence the team has gone 7-2, trailing conference leader Georgetown by two games, with tough road games remaining against Marquette and Louisville, both of whom are tied for second place.
"We're in the middle of this thing, and let's keep going," Brey said.
Grant shot just 2-of-9 from the field but was perfect from the free-throw line, hitting a season-high nine from the stripe.
Cincinnati (19-9, 7-8) converted just 3 of their first 15 shots of the game, and finished the first half shooting 7-of-25, or 28 percent. They weren't much more accurate in the second half, finishing the game at 32 percent shooting.
Pat Connaughton's 3 from the corner, falling through the net just two seconds before the first-half buzzer, gave the Irish a 29-15 lead at the break.
Notre Dame scored the first five points of the second half, off a fastbreak layup by Atkins and a 3 by the point guard, stretching their lead to 19, the largest of the game up to that point. That prompted another timeout by Cronin, and the Bearcats seemed poised for a rally. Coming out of the timeout, they reeled off a 9-0 run over a nearly four-minute span, including two layups and free throw by Parker, and reduced the lead to 11, at 39-28.
But the Irish regained control with a 3 by freshman Cameron Biedscheid, launching into a 11-4 run punctuated by a two-handed flush by Cooley off an Atkins feed, and increasing their lead back to 18 at 50-32.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin declined to be interviewed after the game.
JaQuon Parker led Cincinnati with 12 points.
"We got beat, beat real bad," Parker said. "We made a nice little run in the second half, but started giving up threes."
Notre Dame got solid play from all four of their bigs, dominating Cincinnati on the boards. They outrebounded the Bearcats 43-27, often kicking the ball back out to their guards to set up new plays.
Irish freshman Zach Auguste came off the bench to grab nine rebounds, his season high.
With the win, Notre Dame became the first team in program history to win at least 10 Big East games four years in a row.
"It's something we really hang our hat on," Brey said. "That gets you an NCAA tournament bid. We're proud of that."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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