Published January 07, 2013
CINCINNATI – No. 21 Cincinnati shot 47 percent from the field and had 18 assists — good enough to win on most nights.
Not when No. 17 Notre Dame is more than keeping up.
Jerian Grant scored 19 points and the Fighting Irish patiently worked for open shots that set up a 66-60 victory Monday night, their 12th straight.
Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 Big East) is on its best winning streak since it also won 12 in a row in 2006-07. The 14-1 mark is the best start during coach Mike Brey's 13 seasons.
This time, he's got an experienced roster that loves to share. Notre Dame is among the national leaders with 19 assists per game.
"We can move it until we get the right guy to take the shot," Brey said. "And we enjoy moving it. Tonight we had some amazing possessions where we got guys out of position."
The Fighting Irish did it their way, spreading out a defense that has been Cincinnati's strength. Notre Dame shot 50 percent from the field and went 9 of 16 behind the arc. The Bearcats (13-3, 1-2) simply couldn't keep up on offense.
"They made some big-time plays," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "We were going to have to score more than 60 to win tonight, period, end of story. Nobody's going to beat this team scoring 60 points, I don't think. Definitely not tonight."
Cincinnati wore new, all-black uniforms — Notre Dame wore white — for a home game that took on extra significance. The Bearcats opened the season 12-0, then lost two of their last three games, falling to New Mexico and St. John's at home.
They have lost three straight at home for the first time since 2006-07, Cronin's first season picking up the pieces from coach Bob Huggins' ouster.
The school celebrated its impressive start by having President Santa J. Ono get his head shaved on the court after the game on Monday. Ono agreed to lose his hair if the Bearcats won 10 in a row, turning the streak into a fundraising opportunity for a charity.
Despite the pomp, the Bearcats lost again. Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 15 points.
"It's the Big East now," Kilpatrick said. "We're in a league where everyone on their roster can play. That's something we've really got to figure out now. It's not like it's December anymore. It's January and this is the meat of our schedule and we've really got to get that in our minds."
The Bearcats extended their man-to-man defense beyond the arc, trying to take away Notre Dame's best feature. They couldn't do it.
The Fighting Irish lead the Big East and rank fifth nationally shooting 59.8 percent from the field. They went 12 of 18 from behind the arc during a 93-74 win over Seton Hall on Saturday, setting a school record for a Big East game. Scott Martin made six of his seven 3-point attempts in that one.
When Cincinnati clamped down on the perimeter, 6-foot-9 forward Jack Cooley got openings inside. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Bearcats' halfcourt offense has been their biggest problem the last few games. They had another setback when Kilpatrick landed awkwardly and limped off the court midway through the first half, favoring his right foot. JaQuon Parker replaced him and hit consecutive 3s that put Cincinnati ahead 20-11, its biggest lead of the game.
Kilpatrick returned and Notre Dame found its long-range touch. The Fighting Irish made their last six shots from behind the arc in the half — two by Martin — to pull ahead 32-28.
Martin opened the second half with another 3-pointer. The Fighting Irish made five passes before finding Grant open for another 3 that gave Notre Dame its biggest lead at 40-29 with 18 minutes left.
Kilpatrick hit two 3s and made a fastbreak layup off Cashmere Wright's steal during a 13-3 run that evened the game at 47.
Point guard Eric Atkins had a driving bank shot and made an over-the-shoulder pass to Cooley for a layup during a 10-point run that put Notre Dame ahead to stay at 59-49 with 5:42 left. Atkins had 10 points and six assists.
Grant hit a fade-away jumper that kept Notre Dame ahead 64-56 with 1:32 left.
"Very few guys can get that shot off, let alone make it," Cronin said.
Cronin benched forward Justin Jackson, who had started the first 15 games but failed to score in three of the last five. Cronin indicated it was related to his effort in practice.
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