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Irish quick to erase any USF illusions
The Bulls start well before Notre Dame rolls to its 16th straight home wi n.
By DARRYL MELLEMA
Published January 22, 2007
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Everyone knows basketball games aren't won with 12-minute performances.
So the Bulls weren't deluding themselves when they led No. 20 Notre Dame just past the midpoint of the first half Sunday.
"They had maybe some defensive lapses early and we made some shots," USF coach Robert McCullum said. "I was concerned even when we were up. It was almost like we were being tricked."
Notre Dame (16-3, 4-2) ended the first half on a 21-2 run, holding USF without a basket for the final nine minutes to open a 42-26 lead en route to a 82-58 win, the Irish's 14th straight at the Joyce Center this season and 16th in a row dating to last season. The Bulls missed their final eight shots and made 2 of 10 free throws during that span.
"We wanted to come up here and play better," said center Kentrell Gransberry, who led all scorers with 23 and 11 rebounds. "We knew they had won all their home games and they'd lost almost all their road games."
USF (10-10, 1-5), which led 24-21 with 8:32 left in the first half, dropped to 0-4 in Big East road games.
"I thought that the energy was okay, but I didn't like the pace," McCullum said. "I didn't feel we could sustain that pace. We don't have the depth or the experience to do that."
The Fighting Irish outrebounded USF 45-30 and had a 15-7 edge in offensive rebounds.
"That was probably the most disappointing area, our rebounding," McCullum said. "That's probably as bad as we've rebounded all year. A lot of that was effort and hustle plays. They got the long rebounds and loose balls."
With those rebounds, Notre Dame shot better than the Bulls and got a larger percentage of those shots from close range.
"They've got so many weapons," forward McHugh Mattis said.
Rob Kurz led Notre Dame with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Colin Falls added 14 points and Tory Jackson had 11 points and five of his team's 19 assists.
The Bulls had one sustained run early in the second half, cutting the deficit to 48-38 when Gransberry scored in the lane with 16 minutes left.
"I thought we had a pretty good chance at that time," Mattis said.
Notre Dame, however, rallied immediately and the lead was 20 by the next TV timeout.
Melvin Buckley added 11 points for USF and Mattis, who fouled out midway through the second half, scored 10.