SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Jack Cooley put up another workman-like performance and yet another double-double.
The Notre Dame forward led the No. 22 Irish to an 85-57 victory over Kennesaw State on Wednesday night.
Cooley’s 14 points and 13 rebounds earned him his fifth double-double in seven games. The Irish (11-1) led by just six points at the break, but came out strong in the second half. Notre Dame jumped out to a 19-5 run over the first 8:10 and stretched its lead to 53-33.
The run included six points from Jerian Grant, four from Garrick Sherman, four from Cooley, and a 3 by freshman Cameron Biedscheid.
“They didn’t score as easily in the second half,” Cooley said. “The second half is the way we play, and that just shows how we separate ourselves.”
It was a homecoming of sorts for Kennesaw State coach Lewis Preston, who was an assistant under Notre Dame coach Mike Brey from 2000-06.
“They are a very good basketball team,” Preston said of the Irish. “They got a chance to do some things during the course of this year. They don’t do anything too fast and they don’t do anything too slow. They just play at their speed.”
Grant, who came off the bench for the first time this season, also scored 14 but he was forced out of the game following a violent collision with Kennesaw State freshman Jordan Montgomery.
With 4:52 left, Grant stole a pass near midcourt and drove hard to the basket as Montgomery fouled him. Both players crashed to the floor and were down for several minutes, before going straight to the locker rooms. Neither player returned to the game.
Irish coach Mike Brey said he thought Grant would be “very questionable” for Friday’s home game against Niagara, Notre Dame’s final contest before Christmas break, and the Jan. 8 Big East conference opener against Seton Hall.
Notre Dame’s largest lead of the first half was 14 with 6:39 left after a layup by Cooley. But the Owls (1-9) closed out the final four minutes of the half on a 9-4 run, capped by Markeith Cummings’ 3 as the first-half buzzer sounded.
The Irish started the game on a 16-9 run over the first 7:40, including two 3s by Pat Connaughton, one by Eric Atkins, and one by Scott Martin. Four of their first six baskets were 3s.
Notre Dame dominated the game inside, outrebounding the Owls 36-17 and outscoring them in the paint 44-28. Connaughton and freshman Zach Auguste each scored 12 points for the Irish. Atkins dished out 13 assists, nearly doubling his average of 7.0 per game.
Auguste scored a career high in just 12 minutes. He entered the game with 8:39 to play and hit a short putback, was fouled on the play, and made the free throw. The next trip down the floor, Auguste scored with a two-handed slam off a feed from Atkins, stretching the Irish lead to 26-16.
“I thought it was neat that Zach got in and got some minutes and gave us some energy,” Brey said.
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