CINCINNATI – Jerian Grant scored 19 points and No. 17 Notre Dame used its patient offense to get open shots for a 66-60 victory Monday night that extended No. 21 Cincinnati’s home-court misery.
Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 Big East) has won 12 straight for the first time since 2006-07. The 14-1 mark is the best start during coach Mike Brey’s 13 seasons.
The Irish did it their way, passing for open shots on the perimeter and 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.
Cincinnati (13-3, 1-2) 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, coach Mick 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 afterward. Ono agreed to lose his hair if the Bearcats won 10 in a row, turning the streak into a fundraising opportunity for a charity.
Then, the Bearcats went out in their new uniforms and lost again. Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 15 points.
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 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 three-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. JaQuan Parker replaced him and hit consecutive threes that put Cincinnatia head 20-11, its biggest lead of the game.
Kilpatrick returned and Notre Dame found its long-range touch. The 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 a three-pointer. The Irish made five passes before finding Grant open for another three that gave Notre Dame its biggest lead at 40-29 with 18 minutes left.
Kilpatrick hit two threes 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. Grant hit a fade-away jumper that kept Notre Dame ahead 64-56 with 1:32 left.
Cronin benched forward Justin Jackson, who had started the first 15 games but failed to score in three of the last five.