Jay Bilas was a color commentator for the game and gave a perfect description of the two teams. He simply said Notre Dame is a team with five people that can score whereas Cincinnati is a team with only three players that can. The game tonight couldn’t be described any better.
Notre Dame looked like a collective unit whereas Cincinnati couldn’t find any team chemistry on the offensive end. The Bearcats have talented scorers in Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker but after that its unknown where the rest of the team’s offense will come from. Like it’s been mentioned before, if you can shut down one or two of the trio, then Cincinnati is in big trouble. Tonight was another example of this as Kilpatrick was the only Bearcat to finish in double-figures after his 15 point performance.
Unlike Cincinnati, the Fighting Irish displayed their roster isn’t limited in its scoring after all five starters finished in double-figures. Notre Dame did a marvelous job of making the extra pass and unselfishly getting each other involved on the offensive end. It almost appeared as the Fighting Irish would patiently move the ball around waiting to find the best possible shot before the shot clock expired by continuously making the defense work. Whereas, Cincinnati would see a lot of one-on-one attempts on offense with Kilpatrick or Wright, which would be followed by a forced shot attempt before the expiry of the shot clock.
Notre Dame’s starters are playing with the type of unselfish team chemistry that could go a long way in March. Led by Jack Cooley in the middle, the team’s guards have not received nearly enough credit for the Fighting Irish’s 14-1 record. Then again, when the team’s center averages a double-double, it’s easy to send all the attention in his direction.
Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins might not be as talented of scorers like Kilpatrick and Wright, but that doesn’t make them any less of a backcourt. Both players are more than capable of putting up numbers on the scoreboard however it’d been their playmaking that has been most impressive. Entering tonight’s contest, Grant was averaging 12.2 points, and 5.5 assists, while Atkins was recording 11.3 points and 7.4 assists. The duo combined to be responsible for 64.7% of Notre Dame’s total assists.
With talented playmakers like that running the backcourt, it makes sense why Notre Dame continues to climb the national rankings.