ESPN.com - Parents of the world, lend me your ears. You want to get your kid to study and do his homework and get good grades and get a college scholarship, or at least some grants, maybe. But it can be a battle. All the kid wants to do is play NBA2K12. Or Modern Warfare. Or, worse yet, World of Warcraft. You try to tell him: Homework first, video games second. In life, you have to do the work before you get the reward. But kids don't think that way, do they? How can you get your point across? Don't worry, guys. Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley is here to help. You may know Cooley as a longtime Irish reserve, a guy most frequently talked about because of his uncanny resemblance to former Notre Dame star Luke Harangody. Cooley was Mini-Gody; he contained the skeletal outline of The Gody without much basketball productivity built-in. At least, until this season. Cooley's 2012 has been a dream. He's averaging 12.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for a streaking Irish team. In ND's eight-game winning streak -- beginning with its upset win over Syracuse on Jan. 21 -- Cooley has posted six double-doubles, and his averages have jumped to 16.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. Cooley's efficiency numbers (offensive rating: 122.4; eFG%: 61.8) are stellar, and he's among the nation's top 10 players in offensive rebounding rate (17.2 percent). After years of being a Harangody body double, the source of countless unoriginal Twitter jokes, Cooley is having his own moment in the sun -- leading a once-left-for-dead Irish team to an 11-3 Big East record and a surefire spot in the NCAA tournament. Why the sudden burst of improvement? Because, according to the man himself, he stopped playing video games. From the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton: Hours upon hours of pixel fixation trained Jack Cooley in strategic retreat. And that rapture with all-consuming video games like "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" and "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" had basketball suffering from hand-eye subordination. Something had to give. So Cooley, Notre Dame's truculent road roller of a center, handed the games to a friend. There was one condition:Just don't give them back to me. Consider it among the most critical turnovers of his career. "Never get 'SkyRim,'" Cooley advised, sounding vaguely somber. "You'll never stop playing it." Phew. That quote makes me really glad I didn't buy SkyRim. I thought about it, and I read about how addicting it was, and I made a responsible, adult decision to wait until the offseason. I do not regret it. But in all seriousness, as Cooley explains in the story, he really did have to refocus on the game of basketball, to become the sort of "waking up, eat, class, eat, basketball, eat, sleep" type of person. Clearly, the dedication has paid off. Who knew SkyRim was so insidious? And how many other college basketball players have we lost to its absorbing charms? Does this epidemic know no end? Anyway, parents, print this story out -- or copy the link and send it to your kid's iPhone, so the email alert briefly jars him out of his game of Tiny Wings -- and show him what the power of fewer video games can do. Cooley isn't just a Big East player of the year candidate. He's also making parenting your video game-addled child 20 or 30 percent easier. Thank him later. - Eamonn Brennan
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On Saturday night, Notre Dame orchestrated an incredible 20-point comeback against Villanova - winning its eighth straight game and 19th of the 2011-12 season. The 74-70 overtime victory matched the Fighting Irish's longest BIG EAST winning streak in program history. The team also won eight consecutive league games in 2000-01, Mike Brey's first at the helm (Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, St. John's, West Virginia, Rutgers). But the similarities to the twelfth-year head coach's first season in South Bend don't stop there. During that year, Brey's squad began BIG EAST play with an 11-3 mark - also a program-best, and the same record the 20th-ranked Irish have today. Finally, with wins at Seton Hall, Connecticut, West Virginia, and now, Villanova, Notre Dame has won its last four away games. The last time the Irish won that many consecutive games on the road? Yep, 2000-01, when they took five straight BIG EAST away contests (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Virginia Tech). With four games remaining, Notre Dame sits tied with Marquette for second place in the conference, 2.5 games behind Syracuse. The top four regular season teams will secure a double-bye to the quarterfinals for next month's BIG EAST Tournament, which will be held from March 6-10 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Notre Dame returns to the Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday against West Virginia at 7 pm ET on ESPN2. Rece Davis, Digger Phelps and Bob Knight will have the call. The Mountaineers are 7-7 in conference play and will be looking to avenge this month's 55-51 home loss at the hands of the Fighting Irish. - Josh Flynt ('11)
With the winter sports wrapping up and the spring seasons getting underway, it was a good weekend for the Notre Dame athletic department, as several programs picked up big wins and two captured BIG EAST championships. Here's a quick look at some of this weekend's top performances: Baseball opened the season in Florida, winning its first two games in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. On Friday, the Irish won a 13-12 slugfest against Illinois, led by junior catcher Joe Hudson's 3-for-4, two home run, four RBI afternoon. Saturday was a different story, as junior Adam Norton went the distance on the mound. The righty held Iowa to just two runs over nine innings to register his first complete game victory. The ninth-ranked men's lacrosse team kicked off Saturday afternoon with a 7-3 upset of #2 Duke. After falling behind 2-0, head coach Kevin Corrigan's squad scored seven straight goals to win its tenth straight season-opener. Senior midfielder Max Pfeifer and sophomore midfielder Jim Marlatt led the Fighting Irish with two goals apiece. In the pool, the men's swimming & diving team earned its fifth BIG EAST title. The Irish totaled 887 points, topping two-time defending champion Louisville (859.5) and host school Pittsburgh (520). Junior Bill Bass was named the meet's Most Outstanding Swimmer, and head coach Tim Welsh was named Swimming Coach of the Year. Last week, freshman Nick Nemetz was named Diver of the Year and Caiming Xie was selected as Diving Coach of the Year, so Saturday's awards gave Notre Dame a sweep of the conference postseason trophies. At about 10 pm ET on Saturday, it looked like the men's basketball team's seven-game winning streak was destined to end in Philadelphia. Head coach Mike Brey's Fighting Irish trailed Villanova by 16 points at halftime, but the Irish rallied, thanks in part to Pat Connaughton's big night behind the arc. The freshman knocked down seven three-pointers, leading the improbable comeback and 74-70 overtime win to keep the winning streak alive. The women's lacrosse team kicked off a new era on Sunday afternoon with a 17-14 victory over Stanford. Sophomore Lindsay Powell netted five goals, while junior Jaimie Morrison chipped in four and senior tri-captain Maggie Tamasitis tallied six assists, to lift new head coach Christine Halfpenny to a win in her first game with the Irish. In the Big Apple, the men's track & field team hoisted its fifth BIG EAST Championship trophy, totaling 131 points at New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory, to hold off second-place Connecticut (103 points). The Irish were led by Kevin Schipper's third consecutive BIG EAST Indoor pole vault title, and Patrick Feeney (400m) and Jeremy Rae's (Mile) victories on the track. The fourth-ranked women's basketball team will look to finish off a strong weekend for the Notre Dame athletic program at 2 pm ET this afternoon on ESPN against #16 Louisville. - Josh Flynt ('11)
For some reason against Rutgers, the student section in the Joyce Center didn't have the same electricity and fire it usually does. I don't think we deserve a ton of credit by any means, but I do think the student body is part of the reason why the Irish are so hard to take down at home. Notre Dame has just one loss at home this season, and it came when students were home over winter break. The Leprechaun Legion has typically been at Notre Dame home games in big numbers and with frenetic passion that gets the JACC rocking. Tonight, for some reason, we seemed subdued. Maybe it was the odd timing of the game - Wednesday games typically get a lot fewer students than weekend contests. Maybe it was just a rough part of the semester; I know a lot of people have tests and papers due right now. But the student section was definitely smaller than usual, and quieter too. It didn't help that the Irish started off cold offensively. It took the team nearly six minutes to make their first field goal. By that point, the crowd seemed to be on its last legs. It's not that the Irish were playing poorly - in fact, the team was winning at that point, 8-3. But it was hard for the students to get invested in the game, to put the same emotion into the normal cheers that normally get everyone fired up. Well, there one big exception Wednesday night. Every time one Irish player made a big play - and it happened pretty often - the student section regained some of that passion and intensity, and screamed at the top of its lungs, "Coooooool!" Junior forward Jack Cooley was able to bring some life to an Irish crowd that desperately needed a spark, and played a determined game that was the story of Wednesday's game. Cooley got knocked down and took some big hits, drawing plenty of fouls from a tough Rutgers team. But he refused to stay down and delivered one of his biggest games yet. His 22 points and 18 rebounds led the Irish on a night of gritty, hard-nosed basketball. His passion was evident from the opening tip. When he made big plays, it was impossible not to feed off of his energy. Cooley played with intensity and showed a lot of desire, all night long. The student section came alive for Cooley's big moments, and he fueled the Irish runs that made a close game into a rout. The game ended in a 71-53 win for Notre Dame, and extended the Irish's winning streak to seven games. It was the kind of solid, gritty win which defines quality teams. Despite a subpar effort from the student section - c'mon guys, we can do better than that - the Irish played a great game and came away with a win. And a lot of the credit goes to their stud big man, who is incredibly, definitively, and undeniably, cool. - Tom McGuire ('14)
In this week's "Top 10 Thursday," ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf counts down the best leaders in men's college basketball. Medcalf lists Notre Dame senior forward Scott Martin third, behind Michigan State's Draymond Green and Butler's Ronald Nored. "These are the 'locker room guys.' Some of them fill up the stat sheets. Others don't. But if you're a coach, you want these guys on your roster because of their undeniable leadership skills," Medcalf writes. Here's the snippet on Martin, who has helped guide the Fighting Irish to seven straight wins and a 10-3 record in the BIG EAST Conference: 3. Scott Martin (Notre Dame) -- The Fighting Irish had every reason to make excuses. In November, the program lost its best player when Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL and was lost for the season. But as the team's co-captain and only other senior, Martin stepped up to lead Notre Dame to a surprising stretch of success. The Fighting Irish are nationally ranked, despite losing five out of eight games from Nov. 21 to Dec. 17. Martin leads a balanced Notre Dame team that's managed to climb the Big East standings with a feisty defense and an absence of egos. This crew could have fallen apart once it lost Abromaitis. But Martin has helped Mike Brey put the Fighting Irish in a position to make a lot of noise in March. For Medcalf's complete list, click here.
It was a slow start with some ugly first half statistics, but Notre Dame turned things around after the break, getting another huge performance from junior forward Jack Cooley to secure a seventh consecutive victory. Tonight's 71-53 win over Rutgers improves the Irish to 18-8 overall and 10-3 in the BIG EAST Conference. Notre Dame clinged to a 33-28 halftime lead, thanks only to 6-for-13 shooting beyond the arc and 11-for-14 from the charity stripe. The Irish shot just 8-for-27 from the floor in the first half, and prior to Eric Atkins' layup with 11:57 left in the game, Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant were the only Notre Dame players who had made a field goal from inside the arc. Rutgers committed 26 team fouls, sending Notre Dame to the line for 32 free throws, where the Irish converted 75% of those shots - certainly a contributing factor to tonight's big win. Cooley followed up his BIG EAST Player of the Week performance with another monster evening. He scored 22 points and pulled down 18 boards for his third straight double-double and his ninth of the season. Jerian Grant (11 points), Pat Connaughton (10) and Eric Atkins (10) also finished in double digits. Not only does the seventh straight victory help Notre Dame keep pace with Marquette for second place in the conference, but it avenges the team's most recent loss - a 65-58 defeat at the hands of the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J. on Jan. 16. Since that loss, Notre Dame has defeated #1 Syracuse and won key road games at Seton Hall, Connecticut and West Virginia, while also beating #15 Marquette, DePaul and of course, Rutgers here tonight at the Purcell Pavilion. When fifth-year guard Tim Abromaitis was lost to a season-ending knee injury on Black Friday, it looked like a black eye and major setback for Notre Dame's season. Many thought head coach Mike Brey's team would struggle to make the NIT, let alone the Big Dance. Two months ago, no one in America thought the Irish would be ranked in mid-February. Now, however, Notre Dame is poised to be watching on Selection Sunday and this team has the confidence to play with anyone in the country - and with four regular season games remaining, there is perhaps no better attitude a team can have. Stay tuned to UND.com for tonight's highlights and post-game press conference. Let's hope this improbable run continues on Saturday in Philadelphia. The Irish will meet Villanova at 9 pm ET on ESPNU, before returning home next Wednesday, Feb. 22 for another game with West Virginia. In my years of watching Notre Dame basketball, Coach Brey has had some better squads, but none have been as enjoyable to watch and as fun to root for as this 2011-12 team. - Josh Flynt ('11)
Notre Dame continues BIG EAST Conference action this evening at Purcell Pavilion when it takes on Rutgers at 7:00 p.m. (ET). The game will be broadcast on ESPNU, but Irish UNDerground will also have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation. Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.
I've been a Notre Dame student for two years now. In those two years, I have been to a lot of basketball games, and seen an incredible variety of events. I've seen blowouts and crazy endings. I've seen the team cruise to victory in preseason wins, and I stormed the court after a win over the number one team in the country. I've seen dunks, blocks, and a seemingly unending stream of threes. You know what I have yet to see in person? A loss. The Irish have only lost one game when playing in the Joyce Center in the past two years, and that loss (a 53-67 loss to Connecticut in January) came over winter break, when the student body was on vacation. When they've been playing with the Leprechaun Legion behind them, the Irish have been invincible. There are moments when the team makes a strong sequence of plays that the Joyce Center erupts. Even though a game may be tight until the end, we've almost come to expect the Irish to suddenly make some clutch shots and take the momentum. When that happens, the atmosphere in South Bend becomes electric. The team's last game against DePaul was a perfect example. The game was tied at 68-68 with just over six and a half minutes left in the second half. After a foul on DePaul's Donovan Kirk, the Demons' bench drew a technical foul. The Irish fans, who had been getting frustrated with the officiating, came to life with a call that went their way. Jerian Grant knocked down the two free throws, and Jack Cooley quickly followed with a layup. When Alex Dragicevich hit a three to give the Irish a seven point lead, the place went nuts. The players were pumped. The fans were screaming at the top of their lungs. And after that point, DePaul never got within more than three points. Moments like that - when the team and the fans come together as one - are one of the things I love most about sports. The adrenaline rush is something that is hard to beat. And the whole student body (well, all of us who managed to wake up early enough for a noon game) shared in that electric feeling at once. Moments like that are pretty special, and Notre Dame basketball seems to be having them a lot lately. With the 84-76 win, the Irish moved to 17-8 and 9-3 in Big East play. They keep on defying the odds and giving their fans an incredible season to watch. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have seen such a phenomenal effort this year. And despite a tough performance from a resilient DePaul team, I have still only seen Irish wins at the Joyce Center. It's great to be an Irish fan. - Tom McGuire ('14)
UND.com's Jack Nolan takes Irish fans inside the men's basketball program ... Hard to believe that just under a month ago the men's basketball team walked off the floor at the RAC in New Jersey with a 3-3 Big East record after losing a 65-58 decision to Rutgers. The future did not look very bright for the Irish with top-ranked Syracuse coming to town. Mike Brey decided to go all-in, telling his team that the Syracuse game was not just a big conference game, but it could turn out to be the greatest moment in his players' sporting careers. Brey's players did what was necessary to make their coach's statement come true, and they have continued to get better every game since their upset of the nation's top-ranked team. Since my first blog posted last week the Irish have recorded two more wins to run their Big East winning streak to six games, the longest active winning streak in the conference. During their six-game winning streak, this Irish have gone from thinking they could win every game, to knowing they could win every game, to expecting to win every game. It is never easy to win a game at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. Last Wednesday, the underdog Irish had led for most of the game when West Virginia went on a 13-2 run to take a 43-40 lead with 4:38 left, the first lead change of the second half. The West Virginia crowd was going nuts and the Mountaineers were clearly energized when Brey called a necessary timeout. Most of the time in a situation like this against an underdog at home, the home team proceeds to take control of the game on the way to recording a hard fought win. But when the Irish broke their huddle, from my broadcasting vantage point - next to the visitor's bench - I did not see any concern, any fear, any stress in the eyes of the players ... just a calm confidence that they would come back and win the game. This is, of course, the message and poise that Brey tries to instill in his players during timeouts in situations like these, and I think Brey would be the first to agree that his team already had this demeanor when it came off the floor at the beginning of the timeout. Moments later, Eric Atkins hit a three to tie the game. Jerian Grant then came up with a steal and hit a ridiculously deep three, and, after a Jack Cooley rebound, Scott Martin knocked down another three to give the Irish a six-point lead with 58 seconds left. Oh, and before these three straight three-point bombs, the Irish were just 2-for-18 from three-point land on the night. This Irish team again found a way to make the big plays and a way to find the range to make the big shots for another big upset win on the road. Saturday's game with DePaul marked the first time Notre Dame had been a heavy favorite in a Big East game all season. The Blue Demons had only won two conference games this year (one a road win at Rutgers) so your typical Notre Dame fan was expecting a blowout win for the now red-hot Irish. This was new territory for the young Notre Dame team: dealing with being the hunted rather than the hunter, dealing with the pressure of being expected to win a conference game against a team that could temper the taste of a sour season with a win against a longtime traditional rival. It may be hard to believe, but bad basketball teams can be made up of good players. DePaul is loaded with extremely talented young players who have not yet learned how to play well together for 40 minutes, but they are getting there. This year's DePaul team got off to a 9-3 start, its best since the 1999-2000 season, and played well against the Irish. The game was close, with DePaul grabbing a seven-point lead midway through the first half. The Irish did come back to retake the lead late in the first half before the half ended tied at 34-34. Knowing DePaul was just 2-9 in Big East play coming in, Irish fans grumbled a bit throughout the first half and as the teams headed to the lockeroom at halftime. Things got more tense in the second half when DePaul went on a 9-0 run to take a one-point lead at the 8:39 mark. Yes, the Blue Demons' trap was baited for the Irish in this classic trap game, but the Irish would not take the bait. Led by Jack Cooley (career-high tying 22 points) and Jerian Grant (career high 22 points) down the stretch, the Irish broke a 68-68 tie with a 7-0 run of their own (including a huge three from Alex Dragicevich) and went on to win again 84-76, a very good win for any team in this situation in a Big East game. One of the great things about this Notre Dame run is the fact that not just one or two players are leading the Irish to victory each night. Instead, a different player or two steps up his or their games each night to make the difference in the always tough Big East. That said, this past week, Jack Cooley led the way with two monster efforts. Against West Virginia and DePaul, Cooley made 81 percent of his shots while averaging 21.5 points and 13 rebounds. He also blocked five shots and did not turn the ball over one while recording his seventh and eighth double-doubles of his career, all coming this season. Congratulations to Jack Cooley on winning the Big East Player of the Week award for the first time! This is the fourth straight week a Notre Dame player has been honored by the Big East, so folks are starting to notice this Irish team, as are the media members and coaches who vote in the two weekly polls. Notre Dame is ranked 23rd in the AP Poll this week and 25th in the Coaches Poll, deserved rankings indeed. Rutgers comes town Wednesday night, with a young athletic lineup that has the distinction of handing Notre Dame its last loss. They will not be intimidated by an Irish team on a six-game winning streak, and they will pack the same quickness that bothered the Irish on Jan. 16 in Piscataway. But I also know that unlike that night in New Jersey, Brey's Fighting Irish expect to win Wednesday night. And they expect a little help from the Irish faithful in Purcell Pavilion, who have now rooted on the Irish to 32 wins in their last 33 home games. Go Irish! - Jack Nolan (@NDjackNolan)
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