Back on track

Notre Dame downs Cincinnati as injured forward Carleton Scott returns...three games ahead of schedule.

The 8,300-plus in attendance tonight at the Purcell Pavilion could likely sympathize with visiting Cincinnati's plight. Wednesday night's Irish foe was hesitant offensively; disjointed for the game's first 20 minutes; and most important, errant in their offerings to the tune of a 9 for 31 shooting performance from the field while managing just a 1-2 split from the charity stripe.

Additionally, none of the Bearcats' four first half offerings from long range found their mark.

In other words, Cincinnati looked a lot like Notre Dame when they hit the road in conference play.

But the Irish were back home tonight. Back where shots ring true, where the ball bounces for the good guys, and where all seems right with their basketball world.

Notre Dame handled Cincinnati, 66-58, improving to 4-0 at home in the process, and now stand 4-3 in conference play with a Saturday revenge date vs. Marquette on tap.

Cincinnati, apparently disinterested in the proceedings for the game's first 30 minutes, donned throwback jerseys for the affair, then dutifully set offensive basketball back a few decades with a 23-60 overall shooting effort exacerbated by a mere 33 points in the game's first 31 minutes.

The Irish offense, conversely, was humming over that same span despite an off night from senior guard Ben Hansbrough (1 of 8 from the field). Head coach Mike Brey's confident home town crew knocked down 7 of 14 three-point shots and connected on a respectable 20 of its 44 shots vs. the nation's fourth-best scoring defense.

The new-age four corners?

Leading 50-33 with exactly 10 minutes remaining, Notre Dame employed its previously effective Burn offense for the remainder of the second stanza, a tactic that earned victory but not without moments of trepidation as the hosts hit just two field goals in the game's final 10:00.

"We probably need to be a littler clearer (in terms of) what we want from me," Brey said of the Burn approach. "I don't know if I'm as clear as I need to be when that clock gets down and getting some (offensive sets). We do need to work on that over the next two days and I need to be clearer with them."

That shutdown mode allowed Cincinnati to cut a 17-point Irish lead to five, 57-52 with 1:17 remaining, but Notre Dame offset a flurry of late Bearcats three-point bombs with timely free throw accuracy, draining 13 of 16 freebies over the aforementioned 10-minute span, an effort highlighted by an 11 for 12 performance from Hansbrough.

Cincinnati drained 7 of 11 three point shots in the second stanza to keep the contest interesting late.

Each of Notre Dame's five starters finished in double figures on the evening, led by Tyrone Nash and Hansbrough with 13 points apiece. Carleton Scott chipped in a pair of three-point buckets in his only two shots off the bench. His 15-minute appearance was his first since suffering a hamstring injury on New Year's Day a loss at Syracuse.

Said Brey of Scott, "I thought he gave everyone a lift (including) our fans. Knock on wood, I think he felt pretty good. Let's get him some more reps (in practice) and get him more on Saturday.

"He was a key for us tonight. Just his presence on the court in his leader and his voice really helped the rest of the guys."

As discussed in the game preview, among those that missed Scott's presence the most was his classmate Nash. The Queens native accrued his 13 points on a team-high 11 shots while collecting seven rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes.

"They're kind of the tag-team offensively and defensively," Brey said of Nash and Scott. "(Scott) was uplifting to him."

Cincinnati freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 16 points off the bench, 12 of which came in the second stanza. Explosive and multi-talented offensively, Kilpatrick's continuous absence on the floor was noticeable early as Cincinnati's anemic offense sputtered to a 19-point effort entering the break.

"I thought we had to defend to win," Brey said post-game. "Certainly the first half defense was the key…the three-point line defense in the first half, we really wanted to hug their perimeter guys and make (Yancy) Gates and their big guys play one-on-one in the post. I think we did a good job of that."

Gates finished with 13 points on 16 shots but scored just five on a muted five attempts in the second half.

Five road games will follow over Notre Dame's next seven contests, three vs. conference bottom-feeders, at which point the currently 16th ranked Irish will have an inkling of their 2011 Big East fate: legitimate contender? or middle tier also ran with a tough road to ho in post-season play.

Game at a glance

  • Senior Scott Martin paced the squad in rebounding for the second time in three contests, collecting eight boards with 11 points in 34 minutes. The former Purdue transfer snared a season-best 11 caroms in last Monday's loss at Marquette.

  • The Irish matched Cincinnati on the glass at 32 rebounds apiece though the bigger Bearcats grabbed 11 offensive rebounds vs. Notre Dame's six. (Cincinnati missed 16 more shots than did their hosts.)

  • Freshman guard Eric Atkins netted 11 points, his second game in double digits over his last three outings. Atkins has pumped in 42 points over the last four contests after scoring just 10 in his first three career conference games. Tim Abromaitis added 12 points and six boards to round out the starting five's effort.

  • For the first time this season (at least noticed by your generally aware author), Irish players walked over to greet and thank the Leprechaun Legion following the contest.

  • Former Irish quarterback and current Carolina Panther Jimmy Clausen was in attendance, front and center. Clausen is reportedly enrolled for the semester and taking a (nearly) full load in an effort to complete his degree this spring.

  • Also holding court was ex-Irish head man and current ESPN personality Digger Phelps. Tonight was the 37th anniversary of Phelps' squad upset of No. 1 UCLA, a 71-70 win that snapped the Bruins 88-game winning streak.

  • Former DePaul assistant coach and former late 80s star forward David Booth was on-hand as was former Bulls forward Dickey Simpkins; both were seated on Scout Row.

  • Cincinnati is now 0-3 in conference road games this season after finishing 2-7 away from the Queen City last winter. Top Stories