Three Thoughts as Notre Dame Dominated CincinnatiPosted by WCarey on February 24th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday afternoon’s game between Cincinnati and Notre Dame. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey
Entering Sunday’s game, both Cincinnati and Notre Dame had a lot to play for in-terms of the Big East standings. The Bearcats sat at an even 7-7 in league play, but that record was a bit misleading as all but one of those conference losses was by single digits. Mick Cronin’s squad had been limited offensively since senior point guard Cashmere Wright suffered a knee injury last month and has yet to fully recover. The Irish came into the game following a win at Pittsburgh in what was one of the more peculiar games of the season. After falling behind 19-3 while shooting just 1-of-19 from the field, Notre Dame recovered to notch an important 51-42 road victory to bring its conference record to 9-5. Following the win over the Panthers, the Irish were beneficiaries of five very important off days as the team had just finished a stretch where it had played three games and six overtime periods in just nine days. Notre Dame looked like a rested team Sunday when the Irish were able to thoroughly stymie the Cincinnati offense en route to a 62-41 victory. The following are three thoughts from Sunday afternoon’s action:
- Cincinnati Is Not Playing Good Basketball Right Now. The Bearcats entered Sunday’s game as losers of four of their last five and that losing trend continued in embarrassing fashion against the Irish. On Sunday, the Bearcats were pretty much dominated from the opening tip and struggled to get anything going offensively as they managed to score just 41 points (only 15 in the first half) and shoot just 31.5% from the field. A lot of the Bearcats’ offensive issues can be traced to the health of Cashmere Wright, who is still struggling with a knee issue. In 23 minutes Sunday, Wright was held scoreless and only attempted two shots. Another area that give Cincinnati trouble Sunday was rebounding. The Bearcats were out-rebounded 43-27 and that advantage undoubtedly aided the Irish in transition. With five losses in six games, Cincinnati is looking further away from being a lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. If the Bearcats do not improve offensively and on the rebounding glass, they could be a team that is mentioned frequently in the bubble discussion.
- Notre Dame’s Defense and Rebounding Have Been Excellent Over The Past Two Games. The Irish held Pittsburgh to just 42 points on 34.8% shooting in Monday’s victory. Mike Brey’s squad also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 36-22 margin. After giving up 78 points to DePaul and 71 points to Providence in the two games prior, it was reasonable to see Monday’s performance as a bit of a fluke. The Irish were out to prove Sunday that Monday’s performance was not a stroke of luck and they succeeded by playing suffocating defense and crashing the glass with great vigor all afternoon. The 41 points scored by Cincinnati on Sunday were the fewest Notre Dame has ever given up in a Big East game. With two strong defensive and rebounding efforts under their belts, the Irish should start to be viewed as one of the premier defensive teams in the conference.
- Notre Dame Is At Its Best When Its Scoring Is Balanced. The Irish do not have a standout scorer on their roster and that has been a good thing for the team as it has allowed everyone to be involved on the offensive end of the court. Junior point guard Eric Atkins is a solid ball distributor who can get points when he needs to. Junior guard Jerian Grant is a bit of a streaky scorer, but as he showed as the end of regulation in the team’s win over Louisville, he can explode on a hot streak at any juncture in the game. Senior forward Tom Knight has done a fantastic job filling in for the injured Scott Martin. Knight, who is 6’10″, presents match-up difficulties as he can score down low and also step out and utilize his mid-range game. Senior forward Jack Cooley is the team’s banger down low and has shown for multiple seasons now that he can score inside against the conference’s best post players. The saying “the whole is only good as the sum of its parts” definitely applies for the Irish as they are much better off when they get contributions from their entire lineup.