Cooley takes over, lifts Irish past RutgersFeb 16, 2012 - 4:14 AM South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Jack Cooley scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half, helping No. 23 Notre Dame pull away from Rutgers in a 71-53 decision at the Joyce Center.
Cooley also pulled down 18 rebounds to record his third straight double-double for the Fighting Irish (18-8, 10-3 Big East), who received 11 points from Jerian Grant and 10 apiece from Pat Connaughton and Eric Atkins in their seventh straight victory.
Rutgers (12-14, 4-9) handed Notre Dame its last loss on January 16 but has since lost six of seven, including four in a row. Dane Miller led the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Irish shot a woeful 2-for-14 from inside the arc in the first half, but six three-pointers made up for their inefficiency down low. Connaughton hit a pair of treys in the final two minutes to build a 33-28 halftime lead.
The hosts' inside game picked up considerably in the second half, and two Cooley layups jump-started an 11-2 run that pushed the margin to 51-36 at the midway point.
"I was frustrated at halftime because I wasn't finishing," Cooley said. "I let myself get pushed around in the first half. I had lit a fire under me and that helped me."
The difference reached as high as 21, as Rutgers made just four field goals over the final 7 1/2 minutes to fall short.
Notre Dame wound up shooting 12-of-23 from the field in the second half.
"Our response and lack of purpose in the second half was the most disappointing, and someone not stepping up," Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said.
Notre Dame is one win shy of matching its longest Big East win streak. It will put the streak on the line against Villanova on Saturday...Atkins handed out a game-high eight assists...The Irish improved to 14-1 at home...Rutgers has lost eight in a row in South Bend...Eli Carter, Rutgers' leading scorer coming in, finished with 10 points.
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