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Irish veterans too much for green Wildcats

SOUTH BEND IN - NOVEMBER 29: Eric Atkins #0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish battles for loose ball against Kyle Wiltjer

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 29: Eric Atkins #0 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish battles for a loose ball against Kyle Wiltjer #33 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on November 29, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:40AM



SOUTH BEND, Ind. — There are times when Notre Dame coach Mike Brey just sits back and lets his players do the coaching. After all, 74 games into his college career, sometimes junior point guard Eric Atkins doesn’t need to be told what play to call. He just calls it.

Kentucky’s John Calipari doesn’t have that luxury.

His team — stocked with another crop of one-and-done freshmen — might be great by February or March. Usually is. But on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion, the eighth-ranked Wildcats simply looked young, inexperienced and at times incoherent on the court. And they were outclassed by the veteran Irish, who rolled to a 64-50 rout of the defending national champions.

“I heard coach Cal screaming out plays about 10 times each time down the court,” said Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, who had 13 points and six assists. “Us having a lot of old guys, veterans that have been there, we’re focusing on defense while they’re scrambling, and the shot clock gets low.”

The win prompted the swollen student section to storm the court — with football stars, including Manti Te’o, leading the charge from the front row. But the unranked Irish (7-1) bristled at the idea that this was an upset.

“We don’t consider it an upset, but I know in Vegas it’d probably be an upset,” said Atkins, who had 11 of his 16 points in the first 10 minutes. “We knew we could beat them.”

Especially at Purcell Pavilion, where the Irish have won 41 of 42 games. The Wildcats looked rattled and sloppy from the outset and failed to exploit their size advantage down low. The Irish — who were dominated in the paint against St. Joseph’s in their lone loss of the season — outscored Kentucky in the paint 20-12 in the first half and held a 33-27 rebounding edge in the game. Jack Cooley had 13 points and 11 rebounds, as he outmuscled and out-positioned 6-10 Nerlens Noel and 6-7 Alex Poythress.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats (4-2) rushed shots, made bad passes and generally looked out of sorts.

“That’s what happens when you take a young team on the road in a building where they don’t lose very often,” Calipari said. “We were out of control. We were shooting the ball at the shot clock on drives.

“You’re talking about a bunch of young guys. You can play poorly, but you can still defend and compete — two teams just battling each other, and Notre Dame wins. That’s not what this was. This was Notre Dame throwing around Kentucky and winning by as many as they needed to win by.”



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