Men’s Basketball: ND tops Friars, claims No. 3 seed
Matthew DeFranks | Sunday, March 4, 2012
It was only fitting that on a night when Notre Dame honored former great Adrian Dantley, Irish junior forward Jack Cooley tried his best to emulate the newest Ring of Honor member.
Cooley’s career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds helped propel the No. 20 Irish to a 75-69 win over Providence on Friday night.
In Notre Dame’s 59-41 loss to Georgetown, Cooley registered just two points and no rebounds.
“[I was] certainly happy to see Cooley bounce back with a vengeance,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We were able to throw it to him and he was fabulous tonight.”
Cooley scored 21 of Notre Dame’s 31 points in the first half. He also collected 10 rebounds in the opening half.
“I know I needed to refocus,” Cooley said. “Out in practice, I was playing hard but I knew I had to get out here and show it off to get some confidence.”
Despite Cooley’s big first half, the Irish (21-10, 13-5 Big East) held just a 31-28 halftime edge over the Friars (15-16, 4-14).
Notre Dame opened the second half on an 11-3 run, capped by sophomore guard Jerian Grant’s 3-pointer with 15:46 left in the second half.
The Irish eventually opened up a 67-51 lead late in the second half. Brey took this opportunity to recognize senior forward Scott Martin, removing him from the game to a large ovation from the Purcell Pavilion crowd on Senior Night. Martin finished the game with 11 points.
The Friars, however, responded with a 12-2 run of its own to cut the deficit to just six points.
“Providence is a run team. They can hit shots really quickly and we found out tonight that you just can’t let down your guard,” Cooley said. “They came back and almost got us.”
Entering the game, Providence led the Big East in 3-point shooting percentage, but shot just 4-of-20 from behind the arc.
“We wanted to make them drivers instead of shooters,” Martin said. “We wanted to make them put it on the floor and we were able to do that.”
With the win, Notre Dame locked up the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament, earning a double bye in the process. The Irish will open the tournament Thursday night at 9 p.m. in Madison Square Garden.
“We’ve been to the semis,” Brey said. “We’d love to get over the hump and get to [the championship game] Saturday night.”
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