Notre Dame Carves up South Florida, 78-55

By on February 13, 2011

Larry D. Lieberman / (RSE)-USF Beat Contributor

Tampa, Fl. – (RSE) If you’re a fan of Boston Celtics-style basketball from the early 80s built upon team chemistry, selflessness and precision passing, your sub-conscience is likely nagging you right now if you were not among the season-high Sun Dome crowd of 6,104 on the USF Tampa campus this Saturday afternoon.

A similarly nagging psychological block overcame Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” around the same time those Celtics began dominating the hardwood; and he couldn’t clear his mind without hauling a truck full of dirt into his living room in a fit of insanity.

The #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-4, 10-3), perhaps celebrating St. Patrick’s Day early in honor of those Boston Celtics and their shared heritage, went out and put on a clinical shellacking of the South Florida Bulls (8-18, 2-11) by a score of 78-55.

It wasn’t even that close.

The Notre Dame balanced attack was led by sophomore reserve forward Jack Cooley, who posted 18 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the field. Senior Carleton Scott was omnipresent in a support role by swiping 10 rebounds to go with 13 points.

In the post-game wrap, Irish Head Coach Mike Brey, having just coached his 500th collegiate game, was self-effacing as always when he said of his team’s near-flawless execution, “This week got us confident.”

After the Irish ran off 22 straight points over a 7-minute span in the first half, the Bulls reaction was to sleepwalk through all five stages of gerontologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “On Death and Dying” before an increasingly lifeless crowd – reaching the acceptance stage before halftime. Only sophomore guard Shaun Noriega played as though he was aggravated; and his career-high 23 points on 6 of 10 from the 3-point line was the Bulls’ lone fabulous parting prize.

It’s doubtful that frustrated Bulls Coach Stan Heath would have accepted the requisite “version of the home game” if offered per consolation protocol.

Notre Dame’s play was a testament to basketball’s beauty when strategy and execution are melded on the floor. All five Irish starters scored in double digits. Their 23 assists led to easy buckets, which were converted into a robust shooting percentage of 55.7.

South Florida shot just 30.4% and dished out only 8 assists in scoring less than 60 points for the third straight outing as leading scorers Augustus Gilchrist and Jawanza Poland each managed only 3 points.

Reserve point guard LaVonte Dority – a freshman – logged 17 minutes of playing time at Anthony Crater’s expense as a growingly desperate Coach Heath looked to shake the Bulls out of their funk.

The Bulls get no breaks going forward as they play at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at 7 PM. The Pittsburgh Panthers (#4 in the AP poll) took down Villanova on Saturday night and they’ll be in no mood to lose ground in the race to win The Big East.

Oy-vey ….

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