Strong, strong win for the Bearcats. And a much-needed victory for the squad.
"It was very important," said senior guard Deonta Vaughn, who finished with a team-high 15 points and seven rebounds. "We lost three in a row in the Big East. We felt like we should have won at least two of those. We wanted to start over fresh. We still have hopes to get to the NCAA tournament. To get this win, it really helps us out."
Said Mick Cronin: "Huge. We're 12-6, but we could be sitting here and talking at 15-3 or 16-2. We've had some tough calls, made our own mistakes. We've got the market cornered on bad beats. As a coach, you tell your guys that it will all even out. But if it doesn't, you worry about the toll it's going to take.
"I was really proud of our guys' emotional response. We played with the attitude that enough was enough and that we had to win no matter what. It's easy for a coach to have that will and resolve. It's your career. You should have that. But the trick is imposing it on your players."
That will was evident, because the Bearcats absolutely struggled on offense, shooting 32.2 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from the 3. As Cronin said, it's not often a coach walks up to the podium with a victory when his team has shot that poorly.
But Cronin was impressed with the demeanors of Yancy Gates (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Rashad Bishop (10 points, five rebounds) - guys who normally are laid-back. But today, they were feisty, and while Cronin didn't love the fact they were getting mad at each other and their teammates, he knew at least that they cared.
And as much as Cronin talks about how the Big East is a grind-it-out league, it looks like, for one game at least, the players understood that and somehow found a way to get the victory.
"It was a
real good grind out," Vaughn said. "We stayed solid. We didn't want to make the
same mistakes we made against
--Vaughn's final play, in fact, was the result of smart thinking, Cronin said. Running a pick and roll, Vaughn recognized that the Irish were switching defenders as he drove to the hoop - I think Harangody was the one who switched to Vaughn - and threw to Gates, who was matched up with a Notre Dame player who would have a tough time handling Gates' girth.
From Gates' perspective: "When he made the pass, I knew I was close enough to the bucket to drop it in, but I babied it too much. I felt it, so I jumped up real quick to get it. (Cronin) wanted to get me and Deonta in a pick and roll. Either he was going to be open for a drive or I'd be open under the rim."
Irish coach Mike Brey came away impressed.
"We just couldn't get a block-out on a really big guy. He's hard to block out even if you get great position on him."
--How about Gates' performance on Harangody? The Notre Dame senior came in as the Big East's top scorer averaging 24.9 points per game, and Gates' ability to push him away from the basket forced Harangody to take more outside shots than he wanted.
"I got some looks that I usually hit," said Harangody, who made only 5 of 20 shots for 14 points and 11 rebounds. "Give them credit. They did a heck of a job guarding me tonight."
Gates took his assignment today as a personal challenge. The mindset, he said, was to limit Harangody's touches, and while that didn't exactly work out, you can't argue with Gates' results.
"Coming into this game, we knew Harangody is almost their whole offense," Gates said. "He got the ball a lot, but I was able to make him miss a few shots that he usually makes. I think I did OK."
--I was interested to hear the explanation about why UC's bench got hit with a technical foul late in the first half after Darnell Wilks and Harangody tied up with each other while trying to secure a rebound.
Apparently, the officials told Cronin that Wilks fouled Harangody before Harangody pulled Wilks to the floor. Cronin's question: why wasn't Harangody called for a technical foul.
confusing," Cronin said. "Somebody from our bench said something that
(official) Brian O'Connell didn't like. When he told me what they said, and if
that was what was actually said, then he made the right call (on the technical).
He's one of the best officials in