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.

Box Score
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

montell_goodwin.jpg
AP

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

College basketball is back on CSN on Saturday as two local teams will be featured in live conference matchups.

In the first matchup at 11 a.m., Eastern Illinois will host Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference clash on CSN+ while the second matchup has Evansville hosting Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference game at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Eastern Illinois (9-8, 1-3) is coming off of a conference loss to Murray State. Junior guard Montell Goodwin leads the charge for the Panthers as he's averaging 14.8 points per game on the season. Austin Peay (5-13, 1-3) just earned a tight win over SIU-Edwardsville to help end an 11-game losing streak. Junior Josh Robinson is having a strong season despite the losing as he's averaging 21.2 points per game for the Governors.

The second game will be on the main CSN at 1 p.m. as Southern Illinois (10-8, 3-2) tries to bounce back from a loss to Bradley. The Salukis are led by sophomore guard Armon Fletcher as the Edwardsville product leads the team at 13.7 points per game.

Evansville (10-8, 1-4) is coming off of three consecutive losses as the Purple Aces are trying to figure things out at home. Senior Jaylon Brown has been one of the Valley's premier scorers this season as he's putting up 20.9 points per contest.

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

loyolabasketball.jpg
USA TODAY

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

Missouri Valley Conference basketball is back on CSN on Wednesday as a doubleheader begins at 6 p.m.

In the first game, Loyola will travel to Wichita State to face the Shockers in a 6 p.m. tip while the second game features Northern Iowa traveling to Bradley in a game that tips at 8 p.m.

Loyola (12-5, 2-2) has won two straight games as Chicago products Milton Doyle (Marshall) and Donte Ingram (Simeon) are both playing well. Doyle barely missed a triple-double in a win over Northern Iowa and followed that up with a career-high 35 points in a win over Bradley. Ingram has returned from a knee injury to give the Ramblers a boost as he had 25 in the win over Northern Iowa.

Wichita State (14-3, 4-0) has won five straight as they once again look like one of the Valley's best teams. Junior forward Darral Willis Jr. leads the Shockers in scoring at 12.1 points per game while sophomore Markis McDuffie is putting up 11.8 points per game. 

[RELATED: Complete NCAA coverage]

The second game of the doubleheader features Northern Iowa taking on Bradley. The Panthers (5-10, 0-4) have dropped five straight games as they're struggling to find help for senior guard Jeremy Morgan.

Bradley (7-10, 2-2) is coming off of a home loss to Loyola but they've had a solid bounceback season in head coach Brian Wardle's second year. The Braves only won five games all of last season as the roster has been revamped for this season.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces the Bradley offense at 12.2 points per game while junior forward JoJo McGlaston is putting up 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.