ND tops Cincinnati as Carleton Scott makes surprise return from injury

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Carleton Scott didn't exactly stuff the stat sheet Wednesday night. Just that he played was big for No. 16 Notre Dame.

After missing the last four games with a hamstring injury, a stretch where the Irish went 2-2 and were riding a two-game losing streak, Scott returned and provided a big lift in a 66-58 victory over Cincinnati (No. 25 AP).

Tyrone Nash and Ben Hansbrough led five scorers in double figures with 13 points each and Scott added six points.

"[Scott] came off the bench and gave everyone a lift," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "He was a key for us tonight. Just his presence on the court as a leader and a voice really helped the rest of his teammates."

Reserve Sean Kilpatrick scored 16 points, including seven straight with 7 minutes, to play for the Bearcats (16-3, 3-3 Big East). Cincinnati made three 3-pointers late and used an 8-0 run to close the deficit to five points with 1:12 to go.

But Notre Dame (15-4, 4-3) went 7 for 8 from the free throw line the rest of the way.

Out since injuring his hamstring in a Jan. 1 loss at Syracuse, Scott hit both shots he attempted, two 3-pointers, the only points from a nonstarter for Notre Dame.

Originally pegged for a possible return as late as Feb. 3, Scott resumed practice this week and felt good enough to try it in a game.

"When I hit the first shot, it was like a weight coming off my shoulders," Scott said. "I was so anxious to get back out there, so to get that first one, it felt great."

Hansbrough, who was 1 for 8 from the field, finished 11 for 12 from the free throw line. Tim Abromaitis added 12 points for the Irish.

Yancy Gates had 13 points for Cincinnati.

In road losses to Marquette and St. John's, Notre Dame shot under 20 percent from 3-point range and lost by an average of 20 points. But the Irish got hot at home against the Bearcats, connecting on 7 of 14 from long range.

"I think they were embarrassed and [ticked] off," Brey said of his team. "We got punched hard. They're competitive guys and we were very focused."

"Some nights you are going to get your butt kicked," Hansbrough said. "We had to come home, regroup and get our team back together, and that is what we did tonight."

Notre Dame started the game 1 for 8 from the field, but hit its next six shots during a stretch where Scott entered for the first time. The Irish used a 15-2 run to take a 10-point lead. Another 8-0 run near the end of the first half helped them to a 14-point halftime lead.

Coming off a rough shooting performance in a loss at No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday, the Bearcats struggled again against Notre Dame, hitting just four of their first 22 shots. Cincinnati, which is in the middle of a three-game road stretch over an eight-day span, shot 38 percent.

"We held them to 66, and we gave ourselves a chance to win," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "But our offense was pretty inept. We have to do a better job with the ball."

Eric Atkins and Scott Martin each had 11 points for the Irish, and Martin grabbed eight rebounds.