Jan. 10, 2012
The Irish led by just three (40-37) with 9:17 to play in the contest, but six points from sophomore guard Jerian Grant and five from junior forward Jack Cooley over the next 5:07 helped the Irish build a 17-point lead (54-37) and create some much needed breathing room from a hard-nosed Bulls squad.
Cooley finished with a game-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Grant poured in 14 points and dished out four assists. Senior forward Scott Martin posted his second-straight double-double with 15 points and a career-best 13 rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
Notre Dame (11-6, 3-1 BIG EAST) shot 50 percent (12-24) in the second half and held USF (9-8, 2-2 BIG EAST) to just 34.5 percent (10-29) from the floor. Despite being outrebounded by the Bulls, 35-29, the Irish held a 16-4 advantage in assists and used strong defensive pressure throughout the contest to force 13 USF turnovers.
The Irish opened the game on a 6-0 run, but the Bulls responded with six of the next eight points to even the score at 8-8. Three-pointers on consecutive possessions by Grant put the Irish back in front, 17-12, and a triple by freshman guard Pat Connaughton extended the Notre Dame advantage to eight (26-18) with 3:26 to go in the half. USF moved back within two (26-24) on a fast-break lay-in by Anthony Collins, but the Irish scored the last four points of the half - including a last-second runner by Connaughton - to take a 30-24 lead into the break.
Notre Dame shot a blistering 55.6 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, with five of the team's 12 field goals coming from three-point territory. Grant led the Irish with eight first-half points.
Neither team could find the basket to start the second half, but the Bulls converted on a number of second-chance opportunities to cut the Irish lead to 34-32 at the 12:51 mark. Strong finishes by Cooley on consecutive possessions pushed the Irish advantage back to six (38-32) and Grant put together a 3-point play four minutes later to keep the Irish in front by six (43-37). After another drive and finish by Cooley, Grant converted his second 3-point play in as many minutes to extend the Notre Dame lead to 11 (48-37) and force a USF timeout.
An electric fast-break dunk by Cooley off a good feed from sophomore point guard Eric Atkins capped a 14-0 run by the Irish and put the home team comfortably in front, 54-37, with 4:10 to play. The 17-point cushion was the team's largest of the game.
After missing eight of their first nine shots to begin the second half, the Irish put USF away by connecting on 11 of their final 15 attempts (.733).
The win extended Notre Dame's home winning streak to 29 games, the fourth-longest mark in the nation. The Irish are now 8-1 all-time against USF.
Notre Dame returns to action on Saturday against No. 17/16 Connecticut. Tip-off is slated for 11:00 a.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion.