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February 11, 2012

Jack gets mad, Irish get win

Cooley is averaging 13.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in Big East play.

DePaul's only defense for Jack Cooley was shoving him off the court.

That's exactly what happened midway through the second half of Notre Dame's 84-76 home win on Saturday, when a DePaul forward threw the 248-pound Irish center out of bounds under the basket after an Eric Atkins layup, Cooley going face to face with a television camera.

No foul was called.

Plenty of testosterone was stirred.

"I got thrown into the basket and apparently since I'm bigger than the person that's guarding me, it's OK," Cooley said. "In all honesty it helped me play longer, me getting angry. It allowed me to get more energy and to play longer, which really helped in the end. I needed that little boost."

Cooley finished with his second straight double-double, his eighth of the season and his sixth in Big East play. His 22 points tied Jerian Grant for the game-high. His 14 rebounds led the Irish for the 16th time this season. With one more board, Cooley would have become just the second Big East player to average double figures on the glass in league games.

"He was a big problem," said DePaul guard Brandon Young. "He was down there banging and getting rebounds and we weren't boxing him out."

If there was a game when Cooley should have taken a step back, this should have been it. Notre Dame dumped the burn for an up-tempo offense, forcing Cooley to run the floor when he wasn't picking himself up off it. And DePaul's active frontcourt meant the Irish center was also run ragged on defense.

Cooley was still fit enough to log 36 minutes, drawing an offensive foul in the closing moments that helped Notre Dame turn a one possession game into an insurmountable lead.

"I think his disposition is one of eating raw meat all the time anyways," Brey said. "He certainly loves to play physically.

"That was a huge charge he took there at the end and he was definitely outside the arc. The problem is when people run into Jack, they bounce further off of him. That doesn't mean he didn't have good position."

Cooley said that offensive foul against Young, who gave away 56 pounds in the collision, was actually a hook. Regardless, Cooley sprung up from the floor with a scream fit for somebody who might take his meat uncooked.

"When he gets mad I feel we've got to get him the ball," said Eric Atkins. "I think he's the strongest guy in the league. Once he gets it, I think he can score at will. Him getting mad is a good thing."

Brey started the campaign for Cooley to get all-league honors. The junior may be a favorite for the Big East's most improved player after not logging 10 boards in a game once last season. Cooley hit double figures in points just four times. In Notre Dame's two NCAA tournament games Cooley combined for four points and two rebounds.

Now Cooley is averaging 13.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in Big East play. He's fifth in the league in field goal percentage, sixth in blocks and first in offensive rebounds.

"I think he's a strong candidate for most improved in our league and probably a strong candidate to be all-league," Brey said. "If we finish in the top four, I think a lot of people would vote for him."


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