After turning in his worst performance of the season Monday at Georgetown (two points and zero rebounds), Notre Dame junior forward Jack Cooley emphatically returned to form in the regular season finale Friday against visiting Providence.
Jack Cooley had a career-high 27 points Friday versus the Friars
The 6-foot-9, 248-pounder scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Cooley had 21 points and 10 boards in the first half alone and pulled the Irish along to a 75-69 victory to improve to 21-10 overall and 13-5 in Big East Conference play. The win locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s league tournament at Madison Square Garden.
It was Cooley’s 12th double-double of the season (10th in Big East play). What was once thought to be a year the big man might earn the conference’s most improved award might turn out to be a little more special. Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey sure thinks Cooley deserves a spot on the All-Big East First Team.
“I think he’s very worthy of being first-team,” Brey said. “If he was a first-team all-league guy, I don’t think any of us in here would say, ‘What?’ What he’s done for us ... I’m thrilled for him. He’s earned it. It will be interesting to see how all that shakes out.”
Emotional evening at Purcell Pavilion
It’s likely Tim Abromaitis peeled off his game jersey and warm-ups for the last time Friday night. Though the fifth-year senior hasn’t been cleared to run after having surgery in early December to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that caused him to miss most of the season, Abromaitis dressed for a tear-filled Senior Night. He and best friend Scott Martin were honored before the game and Abromaitis in particular couldn’t mask his emotions. After the game, with a good sense of humor, he grabbed the microphone and addressed the crowd one last time.
"The whole me crying before the game, just stick with us here. We don't have to show that clip,” he said. Abromaitis told BlueandGold.com after the game that he knows his request with the NCAA for a sixth year probably won’t be granted and that he’s beginning to contact agents about pursuing a career in the National Basketball Association.
Martin, however, might get a sixth year based on personal circumstances. The Purdue transfer sat out the 2009-10 season after injuring his knee in preseason practice. He left the Boilermakers program in part because his father was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer and Martin needed to be closer to his home in Valparaiso to help during treatment. He barked “one more year” into the microphone following the victory over the Friars.
“I took a few more looks around than I normally do,” he added. “You try to soak it all in and savor it and remember it.”
At halftime, legendary forward Adrian Dantley was added to Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder out of DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., scored 18.3 points per game as a freshman in 1973-74 and followed up with back-to-back All-American campaigns his sophomore (30.4) and junior (28.6) seasons.
Notre Dame legend Adrian Dantley was inducted into the Ring of Honor Friday
"I'm kind of surprised Notre Dame is even doing something like this because over the years, when you'd go see other universities, you'd see players' retired jerseys, but not at Notre Dame," Dantley said.
Postseason lineup change?
It took nearly the first third of the season for Brey to settle on his starting lineup — the final piece being between freshman Pat Connaughton and sophomore Alex Dragicevich. Connaughton has started every game since the monumental upset over No. 1 Syracuse on Jan. 21 and has started 15 total games. Dragicevich has 10 starts under his belt, but he might get his 11th Thursday in New York City at the Big East Championship.
Connaughton has 36 points and 28 rebounds over the last five games, with 21 points and nine rebounds against Villanova alone. Dragicevich has 26 points and eight boards in that same span. After Friday’s win, when Dragicevich poured in 12 points and got his hands on countless loose balls and defensive rebounds, and the freshman struggled to a single bucket and one board, Brey said stirring the pot might be good for both players.
“We’ve got to get [Connaughton] going,” Brey said. “He’s been really good for us. It’s a long season. He’s a true freshman. That’s a long time to concentrate. That’s not lost on me. We’ve got a week to kind of get him going, because we’re going to need him if we’re going to advance in any tournament.
“I think we would really think about that (lineup change). I thought about that this week. It may be something that helps Pat. We’ve done that before where we’ve just shook it up a little bit. So I think that’s something we have to evaluate over the next couple days.”