Cooley, Notre Dame cruise past Sacred Heart 106-65
SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Everything seemed to be working on offense Monday for Notre Dame.
Jack Cooley scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds, leading the hot-shooting Fighting Irish to a 106-65 win over Sacred Heart.
Cooley was one of five Notre Dame players to score in double figures. The Irish also had 25 assists against just four turnovers.
"Everyone played well as a team," Cooley said. "We had so many assists today. We were just playing together and flowing really well. It's easy to play that way."
Cooley, who also blocked three shots, was 7 of 7 from the field and 5 of 6 from the line. Jerian Grant added 15 points and seven assists for the Irish (8-5), who shot 61 percent (35 of 57) from the field, including 53 percent (9 of 17) on 3-pointers, in recording their 27th consecutive home victory. Eric Atkins scored 13 points, and Alex Dragicevich and Joey Brooks had 12 apiece.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said he felt like his guards were looking for shots more than they had earlier in the season.
"We can't have those guys turn shots down," Brey said. "We're still evolving in that area."
Notre Dame also got 27 points at the free-throw line on 34 attempts, to only 15 for Sacred Heart.
Shane Gibson scored 22 points for the Pioneers (6-7), leaving the senior 11 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
With a victory in its final nonconference game of the season, Notre Dame improved its record against current Northeast Conference teams to 26-0.
Sacred Heart led by as many as many as seven points in the first half, but the Irish responded with a 9-0 run to take a 32-30 lead. They took advantage of eight first-half turnovers by the Pioneers, ultimately leading 48-37 at halftime.
The turnaround was keyed by an improved effort on the defensive end for the Irish.
"We talked to each other about guarding your guy," Grant said. "People were beating us off the dribble and we had to help. If you just guard your guy, than we don't need help defense and that's what we talked about."
Notre Dame made 17 field goals in the first half -- one more than in the Irish's previous game, a loss Saturday to Indiana. They kept up the hot shooting in the second half, opening with an 11-0 run for a 59-37 lead.
"You don't look good when the other team is making a real good percentage and you're not stopping them," said Sacred Heart head coach Dave Bike. "The only way we stopped a few shots were because we fouled people. That's somewhat of our Achilles."
The Irish used the same starting lineup as in Saturday's game, but better shooting from the floor proved to be the difference.
"I think we're always in a pretty good rhythm here and I love that," Brey said. "I couldn't care about the rhythm on the road right now. I just like to see if we can maintain this rhythm at home. But I think when our guys get back here it's a place we feel good, and we feel good offensively here."
Cooley has played especially well at home, averaging 21 points in the last three games at Purcell Pavilion. When Cooley's scoring inside, the offense opens up for the rest of the lineup.
"If they can't guard him down there one-on-one, they have to bring somebody, and everybody else is a shooter," Grant said. "We have four shooters out there with Jack, and when they come down on Jack, we get open looks."
The 106 points and 61 percent shooting were season highs for Notre Dame.