No. 20 Notre Dame 71, West Virginia 44

Swiftly and convincingly, No. 20 Notre Dame pulled away with the

kind of resolve that has characterized the Irish’s transformation

during a head-turning nine-game winning streak.

Using balanced scoring and defensive quickness, the Irish

coasted to a one-sided 71-44 victory over West Virginia on

Wednesday night after leading by two points at halftime.

”I thought our offensive efficiency was excellent in the second

half. When you had a chance to put somebody away this group has

shown a cruelty to go for the jugular,” coach Mike Brey said after

the Irish secured his sixth straight 20-win season.

”That’s what I really love about us. I think that can help us

in March.”

Jerian Grant scored 20 points and had a couple of acrobatic

dunks, Notre Dame made 9 of 16 3-point attempts, shot 61 percent

overall and outscored West Virginia 41-16 in the second half.

Scott Martin added 15 points and Jack Cooley and Eric Atkins had

13 each for the Irish, who were not expected to be contenders after

losing three starters from last season and then Tim Abromatis early

this season to a knee injury.

The Irish (20-8, 12-3 Big East) have not lost since Jan. 16 at

Rutgers and are 15-1 at the Purcell Pavilion. It’s the first time

in program history Notre Dame has won nine straight Big East

games.

”They really wanted that record,” Brey said. ”It’s really

special for this group to do it.”

The Irish went on a 17-4 run to start the second half to break

it open.

”We just got into a rhythm and once this team gets into a

rhythm I think we can beat a lot of teams,” said Grant, whose

emergence has been one of the big keys in Notre Dame’s tear.

”We just got flowing and obviously our defense held them to 16

points in the second half.”

The Mountaineers (17-11, 7-8), meanwhile, are going in the other

direction with six losses in eight games. Kevin Jones had 15 points

for West Virginia, which shot just 31.5 percent and made only 6 of

27 field goal attempts after halftime. And the Mountaineers

misfired on 10 of their 11 3-point attempts.

It was an ugly second half.

”They got us in transition and then we panicked and took quick

shots,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

”Quick shots and bad shots – that’s a recipe for what happened.

We got so many young guys that they panicked. … We’re not

athletic. We’re probably the most non-athletic team in the league.

When you’re non-athletic you start taking some quick shots and all

of a sudden they’re running at you, you’ve got problems.”

Notre Dame’s quickness began to show in the first 5 minutes of

the second half after the Irish led 30-28 at halftime.

Atkins’ three-point play, a steal leading to a dunk by Grant and

Grant’s 3-pointer after an offensive rebound built a 10-point lead.

After a timeout, Atkins hit a jumper and Martin connected on a

3-pointer and the 17-4 run put the Irish up 47-32.

Grant took off on a dunk attempt with just less than 10 minutes

to play and lost the ball on his way to the rim. But he hustled and

came up with the ball in the corner and hit a 3-pointer to give the

Irish a 58-35 lead.

”I kind of lost the ball. But I got it back,” Grant said with

a smile.

Just to show how things have been going for the Irish, Cooley

tossed up a shot after a timeout had been called and it swished

through late in the first half. He scored nine of his 11 points in

the final 5 minutes of the first half as the Irish shrugged off a

sluggish start and took a two-point lead behind 63 percent

shooting.

West Virginia’s Darryl Bryant, scoreless in the first meeting

between the teams, a 55-51 Irish win in Morgantown on Feb. 8, had

10 points in the first half and none in the second.