Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
February 16, 2006Leave it to a player seemingly sliding out of Notre Dame's rotation to keep the Irish in Big East Tournament contention.
Bound to the bench the past two weeks, sophomore forward Rob Kurz sprung to action Wednesday night against lowly South Florida, notching his first career double-double to help the Irish fend off the Bulls, 62-55, at the Joyce Center. Notre Dame (12-10, 3-8) won its second straight Big East game with a critical road test at Seton Hall set for Saturday.
Kurz finished with an inconspicuous 10 points and career-high 11 rebounds, but those stats gave Notre Dame the frontcourt punch it needed to drop USF (6-18, 0-11) to its 13th-straight defeat, leaving the Bulls still searching for their first Big East victory.
Kurz's contribution also let Notre Dame absorb forgettable stat lines from Chris Quinn and Colin Falls, who combined to shoot 4-for-20. Falls missed all nine of his three-point tries.
"Rob's a guy that you know what you're going to get from," Quinn said. "He may not be the biggest or the strongest or the fastest out there, but he's going to out-work people."
That showed midway through the first half as USF jumped to an 11-6 lead while Notre Dame missed its first 11 shots, nine of which came from behind the three-point arc. Eight minutes into the game Mike Brey turned to Kurz, and the sophomore delivered with a jumper, then a three-point shot. Four minutes later Notre Dame finished a blistering 19-2 run to grab a 25-13 edge.
"The one thing Rob did bring for us tonight, which I thought was important, was high energy and activity," Brey said. "He's played well for us in some big game against some formidable front lines. He's an active guy."
Just not lately in games.
To put Kurz's shrinking profile in perspective, entering Wednesday he hadn't made a field goal since a Jan. 24 double-overtime loss to Georgetown. Kurz went 0-for-6 in the four games since, victim to both poor production and Brey's affinity for four-guard lineups.
In the past four games Kurz averaged barely 10 minutes played. He logged 26 against USF.
"It's tough but I just try to keep my head in every game and keep my head in every practice," Kurz said. "I knew I was going to get my opportunities. "[Tonight was] just one of those things where the game was going early."
USF's muck-it-up style stripped Notre Dame of any offensive carryover from a 90-63 rout of Rutgers on Feb. 8. Brey figured Notre Dame might not be able to play a finesse game with USF's love for long possessions, part of the reason the Bulls rank next-to-last in scoring offense in the Big East.
When Notre Dame needed more than five minutes to make its first field goal, a three-pointer from Quinn at the 14:52 mark, Brey knew hammering away with Kurz made more sense than relying on his guard rotation to launch threes.
Falls got that message too. After missing eight triples in the first half, he forced drives in the second and wound up with nine points on 7-of-8 shooting from the foul line. Russell Carter led the Irish with 13 points with Quinn adding 12.
"We have a lot of people that can score when given the opportunity and we showed that tonight," Carter said. "Four-of-twenty [for Quinn and Falls]? I didn't even know that. We just hope they don't do that anymore, that's all I have to say."
USF's James Holmes led all scores with 18 points.
"For us it wasn't going to flow like the Rutgers game, it just wasn't because we weren't going to get it back as quick. Kurz was a key guy for us in there," Brey said. "I think that's 50-50 blame [for the bad offense], us a little bit and then give them some credit because they can kind of smother you."
Notre Dame wasn't bad on the defensive end either, holding South Florida to 19 first half points, an opponent low this season. The Bulls connected on 1-of-6 three-point shots, meaning they lacked the firepower to make a second half run. Until the final minute, the Bulls trailed by double digits for most of the second half.
"We stood a little more than normal on the offensive end, maybe that's why some shots didn't go in," Quinn said. "We were pretty good on the defensive end, especially in the first half. There's going to be nights when your shots aren't falling and it was good that we could get a win."
Quinn can thank Kurz for that.