Riddick powers Notre Dame past BYU

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Riddick powers Notre Dame past BYU

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Theo Riddick never once felt like Notre Dame would lose on Saturday. Thanks to his efforts, the Irish didn't, and will head to Oklahoma with a 7-0 record following a 17-14 win over BYU Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

The senior running back rushed for a career-high 143 yards, including runs for 55 and 19 yards that set up all 10 of Notre Dame's second-half points.

"I feel we just have a whole other level of confidence," Riddick said after the game. "No one puts their head down or anything. We all knew what we had to do in the second half and that was get more points than the opposing team, and we did that."

Riddick's 55-yard run sparked an Irish offense that had stagnated since the first quarter, allowing BYU to take a 14-7 lead at halftime. On a third-and-one from Notre Dame's 37, Riddick appeared to be bottled up at the line of scrimmage. But he broke free and raced 55 yards before being caught at the BYU eight.

"What he did more than anything else is that he ran north and south and he played physical. That gets an energy for everybody," coach Brian Kelly said. "The O-line sees a guy that's really pounding it in there. I think that he got us that energy that we needed."

Leading up to Saturday's game, Riddick fielded questions regarding his average yards per carry, which was under four -- much lower than that of Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. But Riddick averaged 9.5 yards per carry on Saturday, with that average buoyed by success after the first hit.

"As hard as I've seen someone run," quarterback Tommy Rees evaluated. "He had so many yards after contact, and that's the kind of kid, the kind of runner he is."

It wasn't all Riddick, though -- his roommate helped a lot, too. Wood racked up 114 yards on 18 carries, helping pace Notre Dame to 270 rushing yards against a team that only allowed an average of 67.9 yards on the ground per game, the third-lowest in the nation.

"I think we both feed off each other," Riddick said, with Wood at his side mock-interviewing him. "Once we both see one of us make a big run or something like that, we get amped, very hyped up and things like that to make another play. And I think we did that today."

Thanks to the efforts of Riddick, Wood and Atkinson -- who only rushed five times for 11 yards, but scored the game-winning touchdown for Notre Dame -- the Irish pulled out yet another close victory. Four of Notre Dame's seven wins have been by seven points or less, with that standing in stark contrast to the team's 3-3 record in games decided by one possession last year.

"It goes to the toughness of our football team," Kelly said. "They believe they are going to win. There's no question they believe they are going to win, and if there's any questions out there, that's been eradicated over the last couple weeks."

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Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."