SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Niagara University’s men’s basketball team probably picked the wrong opponent to extend its winning streak to three games.
The Purple Eagles dropped an 89-67 decision to Notre Dame, the 22nd-ranked team in the country, on Friday night.
Jack Cooley was a major factor in the win by the Fighting Irish (12-1). He scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, both season highs. Cooley now has eight double-doubles in his last 10 games. Entering Friday’s contest, Cooley ranked second in the country in that statistical category.
“I just wanted to go out there and be physical and I got a little upset at the beginning of the game, so that fueled me to play a little harder,” said Cooley. “It was just the way they were playing me and the way our guards were getting me the ball, it was really helpful.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Cooley might be the best offensive rebounder in the nation.
“It’s just his will to go after that thing,” Brey said. “And he’s very underrated as an athlete. He’s quick off his feet. His reach is long. Certainly he has great strength. And he has great hands. Just super hands. When he gets near it, it’s usually his.”
Cooley got off to a good start, leading the way as Notre Dame jumped out to a 42-34 lead at the half. The 6-foot-9 senior had 20 of his points at intermission.
Then in the second half, the Irish put on a 23-7 burst over the course of seven minutes that broke the game open. Notre Dame had a 20-point lead after that and never looked back.
“They’re solid, they’re selfless, obviously they’re very talented,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “They have good balance. They have perimeter guys, they have the big guy. I’ll tell you what, they’re going to be a tough out.”
Antoine Mason led Niagara (5-7) with 17 points.
The Purple Eagles, who hadn’t played a team ranked as high as No. 22 since 2000, fell to 12-78 against ranked foes.