Matthew DeFranks | Saturday, January 21, 2012
Call Kelly Tripucka. Call Digger Phelps. The echoes have awoken.
Behind junior forward Jack Cooley’s 17 points and 10 rebounds, Notre Dame topped No. 1 Syracuse 67-58 Saturday night, its first win over the highest ranked team in the land since 1987.
“It’s a great win. We’re good enough to beat the No. 1 team in the country,” Cooley said. “We just have to play like it the rest of the season.”
Notre Dame (12-8, 4-3 Big East) hit its first four shots en route to a first half in which the Irish shot 54 percent from the field. The hot shooting, coupled with Syracuse’s poor start, helped the Irish jump out to a 35-23 lead at the half.
Notre Dame connected on six of 10 attempts from three-point range in the first half, neutralizing Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense. The Irish also outrebounded the Orange 38 to 25, assisted by freshman guard Pat Connaughton’s seven boards.
The Irish ripped off a 12-3 spurt over the span of 10 minutes in the first half, eventually opening up an 18-point lead over the Orange (20-1, 7-1). Six different Irish players scored during the run.
The Orange came out strong to start the second half, but the Irish withstood their 13-3 run that spanned halftime, responding with seven unanswered points of their own. Cooley keyed the Notre Dame run with four points.
“[Cooley] was just a beast on the front line, which he’s done before,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “Some of those plays where he ripped out loose balls and got second shots made his teammates believe even more. Our crowd loved it, it got our crowd juiced.”
The Orange took the court without sophomore center Fab Melo, who did not travel with the team due to academic reasons, and shot 28 percent for the game. The Irish held Syracuse under 60 points for the first time this season.
Notre Dame returns to action Wednesday night when it travels to Seton Hall for a matchup with the Pirates.