Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), an Oregon-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.
WINNER: Notre Dame
On top of emphatic wins over St. Francis and Chicago State, the Fighting Irish capped a three-win week with a 64-50 victory over reigning NCAA champion Kentucky for their 41st win in their last 42 games in South Bend. In what shouldn’t have been described as an upset — the Irish were 1.5 point favorites — Notre Dame held the Wildcats to 40 percent shooting from the field and managed to keep the pace of the game slow, making Kentucky grind out possessions as they put up their lowest-scoring game of the season by 18 points. In each of the Fighting Irish’s three games, senior forward Jack Cooley finished with a double-double, capped off with 13 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats. (Cooley has six double-doubles in eight games this season.) For a team that doesn’t play a true road game until the Big East schedule, Notre Dame needed to make a non-conference statement, and did so emphatically.
(Related winners: Cooley, the Big East. Related losers: Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow, who only played nine minutes in Thursday’s loss and may have already played himself out of John Calipari’s rotation.)
In the time since this column was last published, the Bruins have been a bastion of bad news on and off the court. They took an ugly loss to Cal Poly of the Big West at home at the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion (or is that Poly Pavilion now?), and then capped that off with the transfers of swingman Tyler Lamb and talented-but-overweight center Joshua Smith. Yes, the Bruins still have more talent than nearly every other team in the country, but it looks more and more like it can’t come together and play defense. After a few troubled years for coach Ben Howland, underachieving with the talent he has could spell the end of his tenure in Westwood.
(Related winners: Cal Poly; Lamb and Smith for escaping; point guard Larry Drew II, who has been thriving and will get an even better chance for success as the Bruins run the floor more. Related losers: Howland, UCLA fans.)