Gates' offensive board with his sixth of the contest and the Bearcats 18th overall as the determined Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight from the Queen City overcame a 21-65 effort from the field with a backbreaking 50-31 gap on the glass. (Hansbrough secured Notre Dame's first offensive board at 14:54 in the second stanza).
"We played our hearts out. I loved what we did down the stretch, we just couldn't get a block-out on a really big guy," Brey observed of the game's deciding bucket. "I give Cincinnati a lot of credit; they made big plays, defended us well down the stretch, and Gates did a good job getting in position for that last one."
As crippling for the Irish as the disadvantage on the boards was a 9 of 19 effort from the charity stripe, including a 2-7 effort in the game's crucial final five minutes.
"Free throws hurt us, no question," Brey stated. "Guys that are shooting a pretty good clip missed some key ones. That put a little pressure on us…sometimes you can absorb (missing free throws) at home, but not on the road."
The Irish received an uncharacteristically poor effort from Luke Harangody. After hitting the game's opening 3-point bucket, the senor All American failed to connect from the floor until the 4:15 mark of the opening half (and made just two free throws in that span).
A frustrated Harangody battled through turnovers, fouls, and constant harassment from a variety of defenders throughout the evening as the Bearcats sticky defense hounded the senior into a 5 for 20 shooting performance.
"I think they were bringing a clamp down low a little bit…they took away my (ability) to go to the basket so I stepped out a couple of times," Harangody noted. "I got some looks that I usually hit but couldn't knock them down. "I give them credit, they did a heck of a job guarding me tonight."
After taking a 7-0 lead from the tip against the sluggish hosts, the Irish faced just one first half deficit (12-9) as both teams struggled to find rhythm offensively.
Cincinnati crept to within three points late in the opening half with a backcourt steal-and-score by freshman Lance Stephenson, but the Irish answered with a Harangody jump shot and a steal at the other end by Tim Abromaitis, who finished the deed with a full court sprint and layup on a transition feed from Hansbrough to give the Irish a 28-21 advantage.
Two Abromaitis technical foul shots stretched the Irish lead back to seven, 32-25 at the break.
In a Giving MoodThe Bearcats started quickly in the second stanza, burying a pair of 3-point shots; a drive and shot-fake in the lane for an easy bucket, and an uncontested pull-up to tie the score at 35.
Following an Irish timeout, Cincinnati capitalized on a Harangody turnover to take their first lead, 37-35, since the 12:51 mark of the first half. But senior captain Tory Jackson continually stunted the Bearcats momentum, keeping the Irish on track, hitting 6 of his first 7 shots on a variety of drives and pull-up jumpers.
With his team clinging to a one-point lead, Jonathan Peoples missed an uncontested, point-blank tip-back attempt and when Gates converted at the other end, the Bearcats retook the lead, 47-46 with 9:34 remaining.
Minutes later, an Abromaitis block (his third of the game if scored accurately) led to a Peoples baseline trey to tie the score at 51. Following a Gates layup, Abromaitis again tied the score with a baseline cut and feed from Hansbrough, then altered a shot at the other end leading to a scramble and Bearcats turnover.
The junior continued to attack, but uncharacteristically hit just one of four free throws in a two-minute stretch as Cincinnati re-took the lead.
Jackson kept the Irish on pace with a contested defensive board that led to a pair of Hansbrough free throws and baseline steal that could have extended the lead but Hansbrough missed consecutive free throw offerings as the Irish hung on to a 56-55 advantage with two minutes remaining.
After a pair of Rashad Bishop free throws, Harangody missed his 15th shot of the contest with an errant corner three. Bishop then split a pair for a 58-56 advantage with 55 seconds remaining. Following an Irish timeout, Hansbrough nailed a clutch 15-foot pull-up jumper to knot the score at 58, setting up the Bearcats with a final possession and 15 seconds remaining.
Gates aforementioned put back provided the game-winner, but Tory Jackson nearly shocked the 11,000-plus in attendance as his online 75-footer nicked the net.
"We work on that shot all the time," Jackson offered. "A lot of guys shoot it (in practice) from half-court but I shoot it from the other free throw line. When I saw it, it looked like it was on point, but it just came up short."
Previously emerging junior forward Tyrone Nash was a non-factor from the start with early first half foul trouble. He then picked up his third foul shortly after the break and his fourth with 17:19 remaining in the contest en route to a 0 point, 0 rebound, 0 shot attempt performance in just 13 minutes.
Tim Abromaitis led all scorers with 16 points. Harangody added 14 with 11 boards and Jackson scored 12 points hitting six of eight attempts from the floor.
Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats with 15 points while Gates finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Rashad Bishop added 10.
Now 3-2 in conference play, Notre Dame's next contest will be Monday at the Purcell Pavilion vs. the No. 6 Syracuse Orange.