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Cooley, Atkins lead Notre Dame over Maine 87-78

December 8, 2011
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SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Notre Dame couldn't seem to shake Maine for 35 minutes, but after sitting out the previous game, Irish forward Jack Cooley was ready to help close out the Black Bears.

Cooley scored 18 of his career-high 22 points in the second half to help Notre Dame put away a pesky Maine team in an 87-78 victory on Thursday night.

"Once I start making baskets, it's just a flow," Cooley said. "I hit a free throw and a jumper ... I don't know what I was thinking. It went in, so I'm not complaining. It was good to see those first couple go in and just keep playing."

The 6-foot-9 forward was held out of the starting lineup after missing the Maryland game because of illness. Cooley increased his practice time slowly throughout the week and had 14 rebounds in 27 minutes.

"I thought Jack was fabulous," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "He gave us the heart and soul, got loose balls for us, did all of the tough stuff."

Eric Atkins led the Fighting Irish (6-4) with 26 points and six assists.

"Eric and Jack wouldn't let us lose," Brey said. "That was nice to see. We're thrilled we won. I think it was important for us to come into the locker room and feel a win because we hadn't felt that in a while."

Notre Dame had lost four of its previous five games.

Maine (3-3) raced out to a 15-9 lead to start the game, but Notre Dame fought back to open a six-point lead with 7:51 left in the first half.

The Irish led 44-41 at halftime, but the Black Bears wouldn't go away.

Alasdair Fraser led a hot-shooting Maine team in the first half with 17 points, but was held scoreless during his seven minutes in the second half. Fraser was forced to the bench with foul trouble and fouled out with 5:29 remaining.

Gerald McLemore had 27 points for the Black Bears, and Justin Edwards added 20.

"Clearly, Fraser's foul trouble was a problem for us," Maine coach Ted Woodward said. "It disrupted our balance, but at the same time, I thought we had some guys step up and have a nice showing for us."

The Black Bears led 64-63 with nine minutes remaining, but the second half push from Cooley and Atkins capitalized on Maine mistakes. The Irish used a 14-6 run over the game's final 4:56 to seal the win.

"That was a game where as soon as you made a mistake in a possession or multiple possessions, the score was already going the opposite direction," Woodward said.

Maine was outrebounded 20-13 in the second half while committing five turnovers.

Notre Dame has battled injuries and sickness all season, already losing Tim Abromaitis (knee) for the year.

Late in the first half, starter and team captain Scott Martin left the game with a mild concussion. Martin sat out the entire second half, leaving the Irish with only eight scholarship players.

"We can never catch a break," Cooley said. "We knew we had to play a lot harder. Scott is a leader out there, so we knew we had to be more vocal to compensate for that and pick it up as a team."

The Fighting Irish padded their home win streak to 25 games.

"For our team this year, home is really important," Brey said. "I'm glad that this group is invested in the streak. They're part of this now."

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