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Men’s Basketball: Irish remain winless on road

Douglas Farmer | Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CINCINNATI – Notre Dame’s road woes continued Wednesday night. From the opening possession Cincinnati led the Irish, with a lead peaking at 17 points late in the second half. Atrocious three-point shooting complemented poor shooting overall as the Irish fell 71-55.

“I think defensively for us that was good enough to put us in a position to win, but their press early in the game sped us up so much that I thought we played frantically offensively,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We never really got into a comfortable tempo that we really need to get into.”

The defeat at Fifth Third Arena dropped Notre Dame (9-6, 1-1 Big East) to 0-6 away from Purcell Pavilion this season. Three of those losses came by more than 20 points, making Wednesday’s 16-point deficit look relatively reasonable.

“We’ve lost to some pretty good teams, but I do think we are still learning how to be mentally tough enough for 40 minutes,” Brey said. “We’re not there yet. We’ve made big strides since early November.”

The Irish went 1-for-10 behind the arc in the first half, followed by a 4-for¬-18 effort in the second half. Contrarily, the Bearcats (12-3, 2-0) went 8-for-27 from deep, along with 43.9 percent overall.

“They made big shots and they made big free throws,” Brey said. “They’ve had success, they believe in themselves, and they believe they’re going to win.”

Despite the poor Irish shooting performance, junior forward Jack Cooley performed well against Bearcats forward Yancy Gates in Gates’s first game back from a six-game suspension stemming from an on-court fight against Xavier on Dec. 10. Cooley finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Gates finished with 6 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, while being limited to 21 minutes thanks to foul trouble.

“I thought [Bearcats coach] Mick [Cronin] did a great job bringing back the guys who were on suspension,” Brey said. “That can be real difficult and he did it smoothly and professionally.”

Sophomore guard Jerian Grant led the Irish from the field with 17 points, also adding four assists, to play a part in nearly half of Notre Dame’s 21 field goals. Meanwhile, Irish captain and senior guard Scott Martin finished the game scoreless, missing six field goals, including three from long distance. Guard Dion Dixon’s 18 points paced a Cincinnati effort which featured five players with nine or more points.

Sophomore guard Eric Atkins played all but the final 13.5 seconds of the game, when sophomore guard Patrick Crowley replaced him on the court. Atkins tallied eight points, including 2-of-5 shooting from deep.

“He didn’t score it, but he was having to handle [the ball] against the press,” Brey said. “For Eric to play that whole game and handle the ball the way he did, I’m really pleased with his progress.”