As it turned out, Brey might have wished he was dead wrong about what he said. "His vibe is in them now," Bray said of Cooley, whose unranked Friars hammered the No. 21 Fighting Irish 71-54 Saturday, Providence's fourth straight win, two of them over ranked teams. "His positive energetic vibe; they play with a great spirit and that comes from the head coach. Very impressed with them." Said Cooley: "I appreciated him saying that, because a lot of teams take the personality of their coach. I mean, I want them to have my personality, don't get me wrong, I'm a moron, you know what I mean? But as far as just competitive spirit, just trying your hardest. " ... I'm proud of our group. We've come a long way." Providence (14-11, 6-7 in the Big East) never trailed and blew the game open with a 22-11 surge at the start of the second half. Kadeem Batts, who scored 25 points in a Feb. 6 victory over No. 7 Cincinnati, scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and LaDontae Henton had all 13 of his in the second as the Friars, actually a slight betting favorite at home, were never threatened after the break. Notre Dame, which came in on the heels of two overtime victories (one in five overtimes), and had played three overtime games in the previous four, fell to 20-6, 8-5. In the final minutes, the sellout crowd chanted, "Over-rated, over-rated." Michael Cotton added 19 points, while Vincent Council, the only senior on the Providence roster, had seven points, 11 assists and a career-high 11 rebounds on the day he became Providence's all-time assist leader. "Our players were focused; we were really locked in," Cooley said. "I thought we had two really good practices, I thought we played the way we practice; in particular yesterday was really competitive." Competitive enough that Batts took a shot to the eye, making him somewhat questionable for the game. But he was 10-for-16 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds in 33 minutes. "He dominated practice yesterday and I thought he dominated today," Cooley said. Providence's goal coming in was to hinder Notre Dame beyond the arc. The Irish, shooting almost 39 percent on 3-pointers, were only 1-for-14 from behind the arc this time. "I just thought today was our day," Cooley said. "We would have beaten a lot of teams. We played like a championship team today. ... I loved our chemistry on the floor; we looked like we had fun." Said Batts: "I love my team right now. Our chemistry is great. I really don't see a lot of teams better than us with the defense we play. Our confidence is sky high, so we think we can beat anybody." The Friars have allowed 55.5 points per game during their winning streak. Jack Cooley led Notre Dame with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his sixth consecutive double-double, but it was an off day for him. Council broke Ernie DiGregorio's Providence record for assists, the great Ernie D accomplishing his 662 in three years, while Council is playing his fourth. Council is three assists from passing Sherman Douglas of Syracuse for the Big East league-game record. Lee Goldsbrough, a hustling crowd favorite known for his defense and his intensity, had nothing else to do with the time running out in the first half, so he took, and made, his first 3-pointer of the season. It was the fourth trey of the junior's career in seven attempts and it gave Providence its eight-point halftime lead. NOTES: Providence had 20 assists on 29 baskets, turning the ball over only eight times. ... Ex-Friar Dickey Simpkins, who played six years and won three championships with the Chicago Bulls, was honored at halftime as part of the school's incoming Hall of Fame class. Simpkins helped the Friars to their only Big East title, in 1994. ... Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton hails from nearby Arlington, Mass., and played his high school ball at St. John's Prep, north of Boston. He came in averaging 9.0 points per game and failed to score. ... Forward Scott Martin, a starter, missed his seventh straight game for the Irish because of a knee injury. ... The Irish finish a two-game trip at No. 16 Pittsburgh on Monday night, while the Friars are at No. 6 Syracuse Wednesday. ... Notre Dame came in leading the nation in assist/turnover ratio and was leading the Big East and was third in the nation in assists per game. The Irish had 14 assists and 11 turnovers in this game. ... Both programs have one year left of Big East basketball, with Notre Dame headed for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Providence for the new basketball conference breaking off from the Big East.
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- Ed Cooley