NEW YORK -- Here is a quick take on No. 4 Notre Dame's 89-51 win over Cincinnati in the Big East quarterfinals Thursday night.
WHAT IT MEANS: Second-seeded Notre Dame (26-5) is headed to its second straight Big East semifinal, and the fourth in school history, after it disposed of the Bearcats for the second time this season.Last season, the Fighting Irish lost to eventual champion West Virginia in the conference semifinals. Seventh-seeded Cincinnati (25-8) is still searching for its first trip to the conference semifinals and is now 3-5 overall in the tournament.
The 38-point margin of victory was the second largest in conference history, only behind Syracuse's 41-point win in 1999.
"Well obviously Notre Dame played tremendous tonight and we obviously were at our worst, they were at their best," Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: It might seem quite simple, but Notre Dame simply executed and shot much better than the Bearcats. Notre Dame finished at 56.1 percent shooting while Cincinnati was at 32.8 percent. Cincinnati seemed to struggle to find good looks while Notre Dame passed to find the open man or worked inside for a layup.
For example, after leading 40-30 at halftime, Notre Dame scored on 11 straight possessions to open the second half and take a 62-43 lead with 13:25 remaining. While Cincinnati may be the league's best defensive team, holding teams to 58. 2 points per game in Big East play, it couldn't stop the Fighting Irish. The Bearcats never truly challenged Notre Dame in the second half as the Irish kept padding to their double-digit lead.
"I thought we did a good job of making decisions when they pressed us to get open looks when we had numbers advantages," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "It's good to play well on that floor because we would like to keep playing here for a while."
THEY MAKE IT RAIN: Notre Dame lived up to its reputation as the league’s best 3-point shooting team as it drained 9-of-19 3-point shots in the victory, including eight in the first half. The Fighting Irish hit a league-best 39.2 percent of its shots from deep during the regular season. Cincinnati didn't have nearly as much luck, hitting just five of its 22 attempts.
WHY HE WON THE AWARD: In his first game since being named the Big East Player of the Year, Ben Hansbrough scored 23 points to pace the Fighting Irish. He was one of four Notre Dame players in double digits.
UP NEXT: Notre Dame meets the winner of Louisville vs. Marquette with a spot in the championship game on the line. Cincinnati is almost certainly assured a big in the NCAA tournament with its 25 wins.