No. 4 Notre Dame cruises into Big East semifinals

No. 4 Notre Dame cruises into Big East semifinals

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted 8:24 p.m. Updated 9:10 p.m.

Associated Press

NEW YORK - Notre Dame coach Mike Brey took his team to see the hit Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" this week, not for the culture or entertainment, but so the Fighting Irish could see what teamwork looks like in action.

"I wanted them to see the best actors and chemistry and how they play off one another," Brey said, "because that's what I want them to do."

They certainly did it to perfection Thursday night.

Ben Hansbrough led a brutally efficient attack with 23 points and the fourth-ranked Irish carved up one of the nation's best defenses in an 89-51 rout of No. 25 Cincinnati - the most lopsided quarterfinal in Big East tournament history.

Carleton Scott scored 18 points and Tim Abromaitis had 17 for Notre Dame (26-5), sporting its highest national ranking since December 1980. The tournament's No. 2 seed, winners of five straight and 12 of 13, will play third-seeded Louisville or No. 11 seed Marquette on Friday night.

"When you have a performance like that, on this stage, that's something I'm really proud of," Brey said. "Hopefully it'll give us momentum to keep playing well in New York."

Dion Dixon scored 15 points and Yancy Gates, coming off a career-best 25 in a second-round win over South Florida, managed 12 for Cincinnati. But the duo got very little help.

The Bearcats (25-8) shot just 32.8 percent from the field and were nearly as bad from the foul line, going 8 for 17. They went the final 7:25 without scoring.

"We already know what happened," coach Mick Cronin said. "They're tough to defend, and at some point, the fact that we couldn't make a shot affected our defense."

That point sure seemed to come early in the game.

Cincinnati entered allowing 58.6 points per contest, tops in the Big East and fourth-best in the nation. Notre Dame eclipsed that total with 14 minutes left, then matched the most points the Bearcats had allowed all season - in an overtime win against Providence - when it went ahead 81-51 on Hansbrough's layup with 4:22 remaining.

By that point, Cronin had given up yelling at his players and simply sat on the bench.

"I (didn't) think we were capable of playing 'D' as bad as we did tonight," Gates said. "They made a lot of shots, a lot of shots early. They did a good job of getting us to collapse and kicking it out. They just came out ready to play."

The Irish wound up shooting 56.1 percent, doing damage from everywhere on the Madison Square Garden floor. They went 9 of 19 from beyond the 3-point arc, were 16 of 21 from the foul line, scored 14 points off turnovers and had a 40-24 advantage in the paint.

"Notre Dame played tremendous tonight, and we obviously, well, when we were at our worst they were at their best," Cronin said. "We got taken to the woodshed."

Notre Dame took the lead in the opening minute and never trailed again, pushing ahead by double figures for the first time at 31-19 on Scott's 3-pointer with 6:06 remaining in the opening half. The score was 40-30 at halftime.

Cincinnati managed to match the Irish basket for basket early in the second half and was still within 49-39 on Rashad Bishop's jumper with 16:40 left.

But the Irish kept scoring when the Bearcats finally stopped, going on a 17-4 run that covered the next 6 minutes. Notre Dame wound up scoring on its first 11 offensive possessions, the first missed opportunity not coming until more than 7 minutes were gone. The Irish scored on their next two trips down the floor after that as the lead swelled to 68-43.

"It's all a matter of how you prepare, and I think this group has prepared tremendously all year," Hansbrough said. "We prepared ourselves mentally and took our mental preparation to the next level, and we did that through practice. Coach Brey did a great job pushing us."

Cincinnati lost to the Fighting Irish in their only other meeting, on Jan. 19 in South Bend, where the Bearcats rallied from 14 down at halftime to within five in the closing minutes.

This time, Notre Dame stepped on the accelerator and kept pulling away.

"We were 'Jersey Boys' tonight," Brey said.

And the stars of Broadway, too.

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DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

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AP

DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

DePaul hoops received a huge boost this week as five-star recruit Tyger Campbell committed to the university.

The elite point guard recruit out of La Lumiere, will join the Class of 2018, choosing DePaul over schools like Michigan State, Illinois and Memphis.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy.

"Mainly what I like about the school is I want to help bring it back. I love Chicago; it's a great city. I want to bring the city a college back to cheer for."

Campbell also said the Blue Demons' new Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place Event Center, which is slated to open this fall, is a big draw for him.

The Blue Demons are a combined 18-45 the last two seasons and hasven't had a winning season since 2006-07 when they went 20-14 and made the NIT Quarterfinals.

The program last made the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04 during Leitao's first stint as the team's head coach.

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

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USA TODAY

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

Northern Illinois University added it's fourth known verbal commitment today in its growing Class of 2018.

Maine South junior running back Fotis Kokosioulis (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) added an offer from the Huskies on Tuesday after making a spring practice visit, and today he gave head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment.

"I chose NIU because it's been a school that I've liked for awhile now," Kokosioulis said moments ago. "I like the facilities at NIU, the stadium and everything else they have to offer. I also really like all the coaches at NIU. I felt that even if I got more offers I would've still chose NIU over other schools. I know that there are bigger school and programs but I feel that I just fit in well at NIU, so I committed."

Kokosioulis, who was an All-State performer for the Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks in 2016, is now the fourth known in-state verbal commitment for Rod Carey and the Huskies and the fifth known commitment overall. Kokosioulis joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan and Danville tight end Julian Pearl in the NIU Huskies in-state Class of 2018.