That and a newfound penchant for the physical.
The Bearcats' 41 points marked the second straight game an Irish foe was held to a season-low. Notre Dame limited Pittsburgh to 42 at the Petersen Events Center Monday night in a nine-point victory. The Irish out-rebounded Cincinnati 41-25 after collecting 14 more boards (36-22) than the Panthers Monday night.
"I am so pleased and excited about our defense and rebounding identity that we've really gone now, two games in a row -- Pittsburgh and today," said Brey. "I thought we did a great job of staying in front of people that wanted to beat us off the dribble all night. I thought we did a great job of staying one and done. Then you add that to 40 minutes of very good offensive efficiency and you have a great team win."
Cincinnati managed just 15 points prior to intermission, an all-time conference low vs. Notre Dame since the Irish joined the Big East for the 1995-96 season.
The disparity in ball movement between the teams was staggering, with Notre Dame assisting on 18 of 22 field goals, the Bearcats just five of 17 on horrendous shooting 31.5 percent.
Eight Irish players earned at least 12 minutes with the bench platoon of Garrick Sherman, Zach Auguste, and Cam Biedscheid producing a combined 9 points and 18 rebounds in 39 combined minutes, including an inspired seven-minute segment in the first half that helped the Irish build a double-digit lead they'd never relinquish.
"When our four big guys are flying around like that, and (Pat) Connaughton is in there too…we should be able to do that," said Brey of his team's defense and rebounding effort. "It does start with not being put in help and recover, and our perimeter did a fabulous job of never being beat off the dribble where our bigs were put in a recovery to help.
"They could stay home, block out, and keep them to one-and-done."
While the bench trio thrived it was the starting big man duo of Jack Cooley and Tom Knight that did the heavy lifting. Cooley finished with 11 points and nine boards and a pair of blocks. His classmate and fellow front-court banger Knight chipped in 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a pair of steals.
"Defense is something we can control," said Knight of the team's late-season change. "If you can up the effort on the defensive end, we will get stops. So that's what's been going on recently.
"A lot of practice has been dedicated to defense recently. As the season has gone on its become more and more important for us. Its good for us that we have length. In the past, guys wouldn't really worry much about us in the post because we were smaller (as a team). Now they know they can't just drive and try to get to the basket because they have two 6'10" guys waiting on the back lines."
Cooley noted the team's new bench platoon has helped him immensely over the long haul.
"It is really helpful, because it helps my body not get beat to heck," he said. "And they can go in, draw fouls, we can go in and get the (free throws). I'm really happy with the system. It's pretty different than even last year. Its great to see so many people getting time."
They're getting time because they're filing a need. Auguste ripped down eight first-half rebounds. Sherman scored twice in the post, assisted another, and was robbed of a second on a beautiful no look that Auguste left short. Biedscheid's job is primarily to shoot and thus spread the floor, but he collected four boards in 13 minutes Sunday.
"We have four bodies that can really lay the wood to people on screens and blackouts, and if one fouls out, no problem," said Brey. "All four of them were really good tonight, and they were cheering for each other."
Jerian Grant led the Irish with 13 points. His 9 for 9 free throw effort and four assists helped offset a 2-9 performance from the field including 0-6 from long range. Backcourt mate Eric Atkins scored 11 with six assists, only attempting four shots.
Auguste led the Irish with nine rebounds, four from the offensive glass.
Cincinnati placed just one player in double figures. Senior guard Jaquon Parker scored 12 on 12 field goal attempts. The Bearcats fell to 19-9, 7-8 in Big East play.
More Time to PrepareWell-rested entering the contest after five days off, Notre Dame (22-6) doesn't play again until Saturday and a matchup with century-old rival Marquette in Milwaukee.
The Golden Eagles are 10-4 in league play, tied with Syracuse and Louisville at just a half-game ahead of the 10-5 Irish who sit alone in fifth place.
Saturday's game will be televised nationally by ESPN at 2 p.m. (ET).
"We have to break this week up," said Brey of a second edition of extensive prep time for the weekend's contest. "We'll scrimmage this Wednesday, I think there's some good practice stuff we can get reps with before we head to Milwaukee."