Nov 30, 2012, 12:38 AM EDT
The defending national champions. The #1 recruiting class. The #8 team in the nation. The supposedly bigger, faster and stronger Kentucky Wildcats. All that might have meant something had this game been played in Rupp Arena.
But as Notre Dame has demonstrated time and time again during Mike Brey‘s tenure as head coach, few teams come to South Bend and leave with a victory.
With what seemed to be nearly half of the top-ranked Fighting Irish football team standing courtside, and the rowdy Leprechaun Legion in full force behind them, Notre Dame dominated Kentucky, 64-50 on a “blackout night” at Purcell Pavilion.
Led by Eric Atkins 16 points, Jack Cooley‘s sixth double-double of the season (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Cam Biedscheid‘s spark off the bench (10 points), the Irish held Kentucky to just 50 points, the Wildcats’ fewest in the John Calipari era.
Even with Kentucky’s size advantage, Notre Dame won the game on the glass, 33-27.
It was Notre Dame’s 41st win in its last 42 home games, and the Irish are now 106-7 in their past 113 contests at Purcell.
Pretty amazing stats for what’s always been considered a “football school.”
The Fighting Irish deserve all the recognition they’ve been receiving for their success on the gridiron this season. Football will always be the primary sport at Notre Dame, but nights like tonight are prime examples that this university has everything it needs to be a “basketball school” too – a passionate student section, a home court advantage, a great head coach, and of course, a pretty darn good team.
I’ve seen a lot of Notre Dame basketball games over the years, and I can confidently say tonight’s atmosphere may have only been matched by the upset of Syracuse in January. In fact, there were moments where I think it may have been louder than the game against the #1 Orange. From the Legion’s arrival more than an hour before the game to Manti Te’o‘s Cooley dunk celebration to Kapron Lewis-Moore‘s good-natured heckling of Calipari, none of the 9,149 in attendance will soon forget being there for Notre Dame’s win over the Wildcats.
It was a night of future NBA lottery picks versus a program built on experience, leadership and defense. Even with Kentucky’s wealth of talent and more than two dozen professional scouts on hand, Notre Dame not only outplayed its opponent, but looked like the better basketball team.
In one of the marquee nationally televised games of the young season, tonight was all about this school, this student body, and most of all, this team, proving once again that you should never count out the Fighting Irish.
After four games in nine days, Notre Dame (7-1) has an extended break before hosting Brown at Purcell next Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN3.
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