Hot Cooley leads Notre Dame past ProvidenceNotre Dame forward Jack Cooley, right, drives against Providence forward Kadeem Bates during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday March 2, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Jack Cooley waited three long days to get back on the court and make up for a miserable outing. What better time to do it than Notre Dame's home finale when the Irish needed a victory to secure a double bye in the Big East tournament.
Cooley had a career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds and the Irish built a big second-half lead and held to beat Providence 75-69 Friday night and wrap up the No. 3 seed in next week's tournament in New York.
Cooley's best scoring game followed one of his worst. He'd scored two points with no rebounds in a Monday loss at Georgetown.
''Monday was just extremely uncharacteristic. I just had a horrible game,'' Notre Dame's 6-foot-9 center said.
''Nothing was really right. Something really wasn't right. Things weren't falling and it was really frustrating. I needed to get back out there and have a good game and I had a pretty good one tonight.''
Cooley said he usually spends his practice time between games concentrating on what he did well in the previous game. There was nothing to fall back on this time, so he vowed to put the Hoyas' performance behind him and just play.
''I knew I needed to get back out there and show it off to get more confidence,'' he said.
Notre Dame (21-10, 13-5) ended a two-game losing skid that followed a nine-game winning streak and now will have extra time to prepare for the conference tournament.
''It's good to clinch that up. It really is,'' Cooley said. ''We get to wait to play. ... And we get to watch great basketball while sitting in the hotel room.''
Cooley scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half, hitting 7 of 10 shots. He finished 10 for 15 from the field.
''He made a couple of shots and he's a physically imposing post player. But I thought we played great position defense,'' Providence coach Ed Cooley said. ''There were a lot of ticky-tack things around the basket, but that's how they saw it and how they called it.''
LaDontate Henton had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Vincent Council added 17 points and Gerad Coleman 15 for Providence (15-16, 4-14). But the Friars were cold out from the 3-point line, missing their first 13 attempts before hitting three straight and finishing 4-for-20.
Entering the game, the Friars were the leading 3-point shooting team in the Big East at nearly 37 percent.
''Oh wow, where do you start? I thought we had great shots for 40 minutes. That's the most open shots we've had in 31 games,'' Ed Cooley said. ''We couldn't buy a shot, we couldn't make a shot.''
Up three at the half, the Irish outscored the Friars 26-5 over the first 10 minutes of the second to seemingly take control.
''It was good to see us get into a rhythm. I'm certainly happy to see Cooley bounce back with a vengeance. We were able to throw it to him,'' Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Injured Tim Abromaitis and fellow senior Scott Martin were honored pre-game and at halftime Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley was inducted into Notre Dame's Ring of Honor. Dantley also spoke to the Fighting Irish.
''I'm glad we delivered for him on his induction night. He spoke to the team afterward. He made a point of saying the team you were in December and what I've seen, you're two different teams,'' Brey said.
''It was great for our guys to get to meet him because he's all over this place. Special night and great to have him back.''
The Irish opened up some distance with a 9-0 run that started with another Cooley basket and ended with a 3-pointer from Jerian Grant, making it 42-31.
Then came a 15-point spurt that built a big lead as Eric Atkins converted a three-point play to start the run and Tom Knight's dunk ended it to put Notre Dame up 57-33.
Providence hustled and scrapped and cut it to eight with a minute left, forcing Notre Dame to re-insert Martin, who'd come out earlier for a curtain call. Gerard Coleman's steal and layup got the Friars to within six with 48 seconds left.
But Notre Dame was able to hold on as Grant hit two from the line with 8 seconds remaining.
Dragicevich hit the game's first 3-pointer with a half minute left in the half to put the Irish up 31-26. Gerard Coleman worked inside for a basket just before the buzzer and Notre Dame's halftime lead was only three points.
Providence showed the quickness to match Notre Dame but was 0 for 10 on 3s in the opening 20 minutes. But their main problem was containing Cooley, whose career high coming in was 22 points.
Cooley had five rebounds and six points in the first four and a half minutes Friday night and scored 11 of the Irish's first 13 points.
''At one point during the first half I just looked up and I was like 'Has someone else scored?' At that point I was realizing I was having a pretty good half and I needed to get the ball in,'' Jack Cooley said.