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Men’s Basketball: Striking gold

Andrew Owens | Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It had never been done before in school history. It was unimaginable when they had an 11-8 record in mid-January. But a nine-game Big East winning streak has become a reality for the Irish after a 71-44 win over West Virginia on Wednesday.

Notre Dame (20-8, 12-3 Big East) buried West Virginia (17-7, 7-7) with a 20-4 run to start the second half, a stretch that gave the Irish a 50-32 lead.

“When you have a chance to put somebody away, this group has shown a cruelty to go for the jugular,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “That’s what I really love about us, and I think that can really help us in March.”

Notre Dame shot over 61 percent on the evening on 27-of-44 shooting, including a 9-of-16 mark from behind the arc.

“When we’re home we always knock down threes,” junior forward Jack Cooley said. “Some of us weren’t shooting well in practice, so by the law of averages we’re going to shoot well in the game. Once we tightened up [on] getting offensive rebounds, we knew we could run away with this game, and that’s what happened.”

Irish sophomore guard Jerian Grant fueled the offensive attack with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and a 4-of-5 mark from beyond the arc.

“Jerian … was almost figuring out tonight how good he is,” Brey said. “He’s an exceptional talent who’s growing up still, and I’m thrilled with his improvement and his development and really his overall confidence. He was going for the jugular tonight, and he has that in him.”

Grant said he and the team realized how good they could be after their defeat of then-No. 1 Syracuse on Jan. 21, the victory that started the current nine-game winning streak.

“We’re playing well right now,” he said. “We hope we can keep this going throughout the tournament — the Big East and NCAA tournament. We’re just playing well. It’s how we want to play every day.”

Brey said the Irish, who clinched their sixth straight 20-win season Wednesday, have developed into a special team that can still improve as it prepares for the final three games of the regular season heading into postseason play.

“I’m really proud of our group,” he said. “We really went after it … We talked about, even during the tough times of November and December, of getting better for New York City … in the Big East tournament. We still can get better.”

The Mountaineers jumped out to a 17-11 lead in the first half before Brey was assessed a technical foul during the second media timeout.

“I don’t really ever get many [technicals] … Did it get our guys going a little bit? Maybe,” Brey said. “It got the building going a little bit I think, so maybe it was helpful from that standpoint.”

The Irish return to action at Madison Square Garden when they take on St. John’s on Saturday at noon.


Contact Andrew Owens at [email protected]