Last weekend the upstart Irish outscored a middling but hot-shooting DePaul squad. Jack Cooley again did what Jack Cooley has been doing lately. The Irish again relied heavily on their starting five--Cooley, Grant, Martin, and Atkins all played at least 36 minutes. And the Irish again shot well in the JACC, making nearly 60% of their shots, and draining 6 three-pointers.
For the second time last week both teams got off to slow offensive start, with the Irish and Blue Demons scoring a combined 10 points before the first TV timeout. The Blue Demons broke their slump first, building up a 7-point lead with 9:30 to go in the first half.
Cooley, Jerian Grant, and Scott Martin carried the Irish offense early on. Messrs. Cooley and Grant hit a sweet post-up versus triple coverage and clutch three, respectively, to bring the Irish within one. It was clear very early that Cooley came to play. His pick-and-roll dunk at the 13:39 mark was one of the prettiest plays I've ever seen. Senior Scott Martin then scored two on a nice jumper over two Demon defenders to put the Irish up by one for the first time since the 12:24 mark. This would not be the last lead change.
Don't even try to tell me that you can tell the difference between these two pictures, or I swear I'll lose it.
Jack Cooley followed that up by truncating the next three DePaul possessions with a block and two defensive boards. It was clear that Jack Cooley brought his Windex and Downy, because he was just straight-up giving the glass that streak-free shine all night. The Irish ended the half with a Alex Dragicevich 3-ball, an Eric Atkins layup, and a tie ball game.
The scoring really took off in the second half. The Irish and Blue Demons exchanged leads another 7 times to one up their first-half total of 6. This made for an entertaining albeit nerve-wracking 20 minutes of roundball. Cooley, Grant, and Atkins did their parts, and an Atkins layup gave the Irish another 7-point lead at the 11:17 mark.
But DePaul wouldn't go away. The pesky visitors scored 9 unanswered points to go ahead by 2 with just over 8 dollars and 50 cents left in the contest.
Thankfully Jerian Grant took over. He drained another big three ball, followed by another four straight points to give the Irish a lead they would never relinquish. Alex Dragicevich hit a three of his own to give the Irish a 7-point lead, put the game out of reach, and make the game seem much less close than it really was. A little clutch free-throw shooting from Atkins and Grant allowed the Irish to cruise for the final three minutes.
In the end Notre Dame shot 13% better than the Blue Demons and pulled down 11 more rebounds, due in large part to Jack Cooley's strenuous glass-cleansing efforts. Cooley did a lot of everything in the 36 minutes he played on Saturday night: he shot 10-for-12 for 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and put 4 enemy shots into the stands. Is it just me, or is Cooley looking like a slightly-taller, more physical, slightly-more athletic, slightly-more-fitting-to-Brey's-offense version of Harangody? Surely I jest.
Jerian Grant got his, too. In his 36 minutes, Grant shot 60%, made all 8 of his free throws, and notched 5 assists en route to scoring his own 22 points.
The Irish took care of business against a middling-but-hot-shooting DePaul squad. While it wasn't the tightest defensive performance--excluding Jack Cooley--it was impressive that this extremely young Irish squad showed that they can win both the grindout and the shootout.