The Morning After: UC 71, Notre Dame 55

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The night where everyone wondered what would change proved that very little did. That's what I wrote my column about following last night's win against Notre Dame.

The hot topic circulating around the media room after, however, was the remarkable, divergent paths taken by Xavier and UC since the brawl.

Mo Egger talked about it in his blog today.

The Dagger at Yahoo! touched on the topic.

They do a fine job of tackling the issue, so I won't go too much farther. However, I will say this: I've never seen one event change two teams so dramatically. I've been covering sports professionally for eight years and watching them closely my whole life. I've never seen anything like it.

Amazing what triggers and releases confidence. I truly believe it all comes back to that. Talk about schemes and bodybags all you want. This is one team suddenly confident in its own skin and another not so much.

Those wild intangible feelings and thoughts so often tossed aside by the stat-wizards (myself included) are so important. The results of the last 25 days prove just how much effect they can have.

Wild. Just wild.

--- I won't go too much more into Yancy Gates. He was the story last night. I wrote about him. Bill Koch did as well, pointing out that some of the concerns about how he would play almost seem silly now. I'd concur.

The most significant stat that popped out to me was he only took four shots. He played with the understanding that the offense didn't run through him anymore. That rightfully was the primary concern, but I'd claim Yancy has never been a selfish player. He's always been a conscientious, team guy. You can accuse him of being a lot of things, unconscientious and selfish aren't among them. No reason to believe that would change now.

--- Nice to see the ovation given to Gates as he entered the game last night. I would say it was rousing, but it wasn't a standing O. Funny how people not at the game tweet something as fact and people claim it to be so.

--- Dion Dixon did it again last night.
His game has developed an interested trend. He's quickly becoming the team's closer. When it's winning time, it's Dion's time.

Take a look at the last four games that have been close coming down the stretch.

Georgia: Dion buries three consecutive 3-pointers and scores 10 of his 19 points in the final six minutes to spur the comeback victory.

Oklahoma: He didn't connect on a few late 3-pointers, but he did knock down all four free throws in the final minutes as part of the win.

Pittsburgh: He scores seven consecutive points -- the final seven of the game for UC. After going 0 for 2 from deep, he buries a 3-pointer as seven of his 13 points come in those final five minutes.

Notre Dame: Dixon scores 11 of his 18 points in the final five minutes. Not only that, those began once ND cut the score to its lowest of the second half at 8 points. He knocked down a 3-pointer to extend it to 11 -- he was 0 for 6 from 3 prior to that -- then went 6 of 6 from the free throw line to help put it away.

I had to ask Dion, is he the closer?

"Everybody see themselves as a closer," Dixon said. "If I got it going, they are going to come to me. Whoever got it going we are going to go to them at that time. These last couple games, I've been having it going."

The crazy element of Dixon's heroics are in half of these games, he hasn't hit a shot all night when he starts gettin buckets late.

"That's the mark of a senior, never rattled," Mick Cronin said. "Couldn't' make a shot but late in the game he wants the ball and makes every free throw."

When thinking about what he's doing, I think of a 2009 UC game against Marquette here the Bearcats desperately needed. Lazar Hayward was 0 fo10 from 3-point range during the game, but needing a triple in the final second he knocked one down cold-blooded in the final seconds.

How great, senior players shoot prior to the final seconds mean little. Dion is becoming that.

--- Not only did Dixon have it going, he entered into the record books as he became the 47th player in the history of UC to score 1,000 points.

Dixon wasn't going to hide it, he was well aware of where he stood in the record books with that one.

"After last game, I told Cash, I need nine more points to get 1,000," he said. "It feels good. It feels great, actually. First couple years I wasn't really thinking about it. As I got a little older I started thinking about it."

--- I feel like I say this in every Morning After, but forget the suspensions, schemes and attitudes -- the biggest difference in UC's turnaround is JaQuon Parker.

Park continues to play lights out. He hit a heat check in the beginning of the second half where he dropped three consecutive 3-pointers, with a player closer to his face each consecutive attempt. All net. He scrapped for five boards, had a steal and an assist.

Hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers, he's now 14 of 22 on the season from deep. Stupid numbers.

"We talked a lot early about us being a better offensive team, we should be, because we have guys that can make shots and guys can beat their man off the dribble," Cronin said. "It just took us a while to find our rhythm with that. But a lot of that is JaQuon Parker, guys. A lot of that is having JaQuon out there. He allows you to play four guards at times because of his toughness."

--- I'm sure everyone assumed Jeremiah Davis would score 10 points in 15 minutes last night, right? He's the latest freshman to have a big night. More on that coming tomorrow. (Teaser!)

--- Hey look, it's Tommy G on ESPN's site recapping UC's win against Notre Dame along with Brooke Weisbrod.

--- Mick Cronin discussed minutes for Yancy as he goes forward last night. He admitted it was probably a mistake playing him the 36 minutes per game he was averaging earlier this year. Especially with the pace becoming what it is, that would be even more difficult from this point forward.

"Early in the year he was playing too much," Cronin said. "Cheikh was hurt, most importantly, JaQuon Parker was hurt. He plays 21 minutes tonight. He's probably a 27-minute -- when you are 270 pounds you can't play 36 minutes. That's probably my fault, I should have just played other guys. I should have thrown our freshman out there more."

--- The Bearcats are one of three teams still undefeated in Big East play. Yes, already. Syracuse and Georgetown, both 3-0, are the others.

St. John's is 1-2 in conference, with a win at home against Providence. They'll arrive to Fifth Third much like Notre Dame, a young team really struggling away from home.

The Johnnies haven't beaten much of anybody, but they are 0-5 away from home this year. One was a one-point loss to Texas A&M at a neutral site, another a six-point loss at Detroit. The rest were all by double figures.

--- A season-high crowd of 10,142 were in the house last night and the place had as much energy as the building has felt since the end of last year. Both student sections were packed and rocking pretty good.

The numbers were expected with Wednesday being the first game of the mini-plan that includes Cuse, Nova and Louisville.

Cashmere Wright had a big smile on his face as UC jumped out to an early lead at the first media timeout and the crowd was roaring. You could tell right then, they had a positive effect on the players.

"We definitely feed off of it," Dixon said.

Stat of the night: UC went the first 15:43 of the game without committing a turnover. They led by 13 at that point.

Quote of the night: With all eyes on Yancy, on one of his first possessions he hit a left-handed baby hook on the block. I asked if getting the first one out of the way and getting into a rhythm helped ease him back into the game, he offered this:

"Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about it," he said. "I'm not a freshman, I've scored in games before."

Indeed. He's now 25th on UC's all-time scoring list. Probably not my strongest effort in the phrasing of questions.

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