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Men’s Basketball: Irish snag second consecutive conference win

Eric Prister | Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It’s good to be home.

After shooting a dismal 18.5 percent from distance in two road games against Cincinnati and Louisville last week, the Irish returned to the Purcell Pavilion on fire Tuesday, knocking down five of their nine 3-point attempts in the first half on the way to a 60-49 victory over South Florida.

“That was a fabulous win for this group,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We talked about playing well two games in a row in the Big East, can we handle some success after Louisville? But our defense was great tonight, and I thought our poise was excellent. I think we did a really good job of that.”

Senior guard Scott Martin recorded his second double-double in as many games, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The captain has now 33 boards in his last three games.

“The ball went in,” Martin said. “When you make shots, you feel better, and you make more shots. I’m trying to do whatever the team needs. We’ve needed rebounds, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Junior forward Jack Cooley was less pleased.

“I can’t even get any rebounds,” he said jokingly. “He’s taking all of them.”

Three Irish scorers finished in double-digits. Along with Martin, sophomore guard Jerian Grant chipped in 14 in his 39 minutes of play, and Cooley led all scorers with 16.

“[Grant] just continues to be a key guy for us,” Brey said. “We want him to drive it. There’s a guy who, when teams are tired defensively, he can rip by you.”

The Irish defense was too much for the lackluster Bulls, who shot just 38.2 percent from the floor. South Florida also hit just one of its 13 attempts from behind the arc.

The Bulls kept the game close most of the way, but the Irish went on a 16-0 run starting with 8:49 to go in the game to seal the victory. The run was capped off by junior forward Jack Cooley, who converted a fast break pass from sophomore guard Eric Atkins, dunking with two hands over South Florida’s 6-foot-ten senior forward Augustus Gilchrist.

“When it was time to win the game down the stretch, we were pretty much one-and-done [on possessions],” Brey said. “We were pretty patient on the other end too, and it made for a pretty grinding game. Maybe that’s how we play down the stretch.”

The win extended Notre Dame’s home winning streak to 29 games, the fourth highest active streak in the nation, behind Kentucky, Duke and Ohio State.

“To have three league wins on January 10 – I’m ecstatic,” Brey said. “If you would have told me in the locker room in Spokane after the [Nov. 30 loss to Gonzaga] we’d be 3-1 in the league, I’d say ‘sign me up three times, I’ll take it.’ They’re getting confident. But I told them ‘great job, but I’m greedy.'”

The Irish return to the court when the try to further grow their win streak Saturday against No. 17 Connecticut at 11:00 a.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.