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Men’s Basketball: Mountain topped

Eric Prister | Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Irish found their shooting stroke just in time. Connecting on three straight three-pointers in the closing minutes of the game, Notre Dame topped West Virginia 55-51 in Morgantown, W. Va.

Notre Dame made just three of 10 shots from distance in the second half, but all three came as a part of an 11-0 run late in the game. Triples from sophomore guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant and senior guard Scott Martin pushed the Irish from three points down to six points ahead with only 58 seconds left. The Irish held on to the lead to win their fifth straight, which moves them into sole possession of third place in the Big East.

“You knew you weren’t going to get out of here winning by 10 or 12,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “The run was coming, and I loved our poise. We’ve showed that on the road now four times, but man did we hit some big shots.”

Junior forward Jack Cooley kept the Irish in the game in which the team shot just 38 percent from the floor in the second half. He led all scorers with 21 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds in the win.

“I am just so thrilled to see his development and his confidence,” Brey said. “I think he knew he could score on [Mountaineer forward Deniz Kilicli]. He got to the offensive boards for us, and he gets every big defensive rebound down the stretch in a close game.”

Grant finished with 12 points despite four of 17 shooting, and Martin chipped in 12 points of his own.

Notre Dame started slowly, connecting on just two of its first 10 shots. But a 9-0 run in the middle of the first half put the Irish ahead, and they took a 10-point lead into half.

The Mountaineers came roaring back after the break, and thanks to poor shooting on the part of the Irish, West Virginia took a 43-40 lead with 4:28 left.

“I think we didn’t hang our head,” Brey said. “We knew it was going to be physical. It’s not like we haven’t played against physical defense before. Everyone plays us the same way — they get up and pressure us. It’s a little more difficult on the road.”

But shots began to fall for the Irish. Atkins connected from distance to tie the game, and then Grant stole a West Virginia pass and knocked down a quick three-pointer to regain the lead.

“Jerian Grant makes winning plays,” Brey said. “He had a stretch there when he thought he was getting fouled and he was hanging his head a little. I thought he had a moment — that’s why I took him out — I thought he had a moment when he was being young again. I took him out, talked to him a little bit, and when I put him back in, he looked like a veteran in this league with the deflections and the big shots.”

The Irish will return home for back-to-back Big East contests in the Purcell Pavilion, starting with Saturday’s game against DePaul.

“This is a great road win for us,” Brey said. “I’m thrilled it gets us to eight league wins. I love the make-up of our group and the vibe of our group, and we just want to keep riding this good stuff.”


Contact Eric Prister at [email protected]