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Men’s Basketball: ND sinks Pirates

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Notre Dame defeated No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday, it took the Irish 26 seconds to reach a total of three points. On Wednesday night against Seton Hall, the Irish did not pass the threshold until 10:06 remaining in the first half. The Irish, however, survived the slow start to beat the Pirates 55-42.

The teams combined for eight turnovers before the first basket, which came after nearly five minutes of game action. The Irish, who started the game 1-of-11 from the field, finished the game shooting 35 percent from the floor.

Seton Hall senior forward Herb Pope and senior guard Jordan Theodore entered the game each averaging nearly 17 points apiece. Pope, before fouling out, managed just five points on two of 16 shooting from the field. Theodore, meanwhile, tallied 11 points.

“There’s no question [junior forward] Jack Cooley was great and [senior guard] Scott Martin helping a little and [junior forward] Tom Knight gave us minutes,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in an interview with und.com. “Jack was fabulous with his body position and his physical presence in the paint. [Pope] never really got going and that was the key.”

Cooley followed up his 17-point, 10-rebound effort against Syracuse with a 13-point, 11-rebound outing against the Pirates. Cooley was one of three Irish players to notch double-figures.

Seton Hall’s 42 points were the fewest Notre Dame (13-8, 5-3 Big East) has surrendered to a Big East opponent in program history.

The Pirates (15-5, 4-4) shot just 26 percent from the floor and connected on only two of their 14 3-point attempts. They entered the game shooting more than 37 percent from three-point range.

“We did a heck of a job guarding that arc and frustrating them with that,” Brey said.

Notre Dame was especially effective at the free throw line. The Irish shot 24-of-32 at the line, including 16-of-19 in the second half.

Sophomore guard Jerian Grant was 10-of-12 at the free throw line, scoring a team-high 15 points.

“Today, we did a little bit more with free throws at the shootaround,” Brey said. “Even pregame, I told the assistants, ‘Get the guys to the foul line more.’ I thought it really paid off because we really emphasized it today.”

The Irish turned a 19-18 halftime lead into a 10-point advantage behind a 10-1 run over the first 4:20 of the second half.

Notre Dame pushed the lead to a game-high 16 after two Cooley free throws with 6:29 remaining in the game.

“We were great defensively,” Brey said. “Would we be mature enough after a big win to come back and be hungry and be focused and play well? Most teams wouldn’t have played well or would have been distracted. For this group to turn around and be mature enough to come and get it on the road, I’m thrilled.”

Notre Dame recovered from a sloppy first half that included 10 Irish turnovers, losing the ball only four times in the closing period.

Brey said this win was bigger than the win over then-No. 1 Syracuse.

“You handled a great win so well mentally then turn around and beat a really good team,” Brey said. “I told our group, ‘If you get this one, I think you’re showing signs of possibly being special.’ And they delivered. So let’s be greedy and go on to Hartford and get another one.”

The Irish face No. 24 Connecticut on Sunday in Hartford, Conn.