What a difference a week makes. The Irish (22-6, 10-5), following a loss to Providence, started to look a lot more bubbly than we thought may be possible this season. Now, after a miracle comeback at Pittsburgh and today's assertive victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats (19-9, 7-8), Notre Dame is looking like they might be hitting their stride at the right time heading into March.
When the Irish went up 17-6 midway through the first half, their double-digit lead would only dip into the single digits for two minutes the rest of the game. They withstood the brief second-half Cincinnati run as good teams do and then put their feet to the Bearcat throats as they expanded their lead to 21 by the final buzzer.
The Irish dominated in every way today, as they out-rebounded the Big East's best rebounding team by 16, out-assisted them by 13, and out-shot them by 15%. The big man group of Zach Auguste, Jack Cooley, Tom Knight, and Garrick Sherman registered 9, 8, 7, and 5 boards, respectively. Six players tallied assists, including a game-high 6 from Eric Atkins. And four Irish players (Jerian Grant, Knight, Cooley, and Atkins) hit double-digits in scoring while only JaQuon Parker did so for Cincy with his 12 points.
This one looked a lot like the final 30 minutes of Monday's game at Pittsburgh, which is a great trend for the Irish to keep up. They dominated the boards and gave up very few easy buckets from close range. Heck, they didn't give up easy buckets from any range, as the Bearcats went 2-12 from beyond the arc.
This one should have Notre Dame fans feeling good, but another huge test looms next. The Irish have a full school week of rest before Saturday's match up at Marquette (19-7, 10-4), whom the Irish trail by only a half game for the 2nd place log jam in the Big East standings. A win in Milwaukee could really show us just how good of a roll this team is on, and heading into March clicking on all cylinders may be a great sign for a breakthrough for Mike Brey's squad come tourney time.