NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Jack Cooley scored eight of his team-high 22 points during a key second-half surge Thursday night that lifted Notre Dame to an 87-78 men’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at Purcell Pavilion.
The Black Bears (3-3) were very much in contention as senior Svetoslav Chetinov made a layup with nine minutes left to give them a 64-63 lead. However, the Fighting Irish (6-4) caught their second wind with a crowd of 7,024 looking on.
The Black Bears allowed Notre Dame to shoot 52 percent (29-for-56) from the field and the Irish outrebounded UMaine 34-26.
“We’re not really in this for moral victories,” said UMaine head coach Ted Woodward. “There are things that we could have done better tonight to put ourselves in a position to win.”
UMaine continues on to California for Saturday’s game at the University of San Diego.
Cooley, a 6-foot-9 forward, spearheaded a late rally by the Fighting Irish, who turned a 64-63 deficit into an eight-point advantage during a span of 4½ minutes.
Notre Dame capitalized on foul trouble in UMaine’s injury-thinned frontcourt, putting the game out of reach after Black Bears sophomore center Alasdair Fraser fouled out with 5:29 to play.
Freshman forward Kilian Cato also fouled out.
“It was a factor,” Woodward said of the fouls. “We’ve got to work on moving our feet and not being in a situation where we’re exposing ourselves to fouls.”
Senior guard Gerald McLemore went 11-for-16 from the floor on his way to a game-high 27 points to pace UMaine, which shot 54 percent (34-for-63) from the field. Freshman guard Justin Edwards tossed in 20 points and added six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Fraser finished with 17 points, all in the first half, and grabbed seven rebounds. Senior point guard Andrew Rogers contributed six points and seven assists.
Eric Atkins hit five 3-pointers en route to 26 points to spark Notre Dame. He also dished out six assists.
Alex Dragicevich posted 14 points for the Irish, who outscored the Bears 21-4 from the foul line.
Cooley scored from the paint to give Notre Dame a 65-64 lead with 7:42 to play, then made two foul shots to push the advantage to three.
McLemore countered with layup for UMaine, but Cooley scored from the lane and Atkins added a jumper after a turnover to make it 71-67 with 6:10 left.
McLemore’s layup 15 seconds later kept the Bears close, then he drained a 3-pointer after Fraser fouled out to get UMaine within 73-72 with 4:56 remaining.
However, Dragicevich made a layup, Atkins answered a UMaine miss with a 3-pointer and Cooley scored after another Bears miss, giving Notre Dame the upper hand at 80-72 with 3:06 to play.
“Notre Dame is an awfully good basketball team and on their home court where they don’t lose very much, ever,” Woodward said. “The margin for error is not high and you’ve got to take every opportunity that you can and not let them get an extra play or an extra rebound here or there.”