Dec. 8, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore Eric Atkins notched 26 points and junior Jack Cooley added a double-double with a career-high 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Notre Dame men’s basketball team held off a hot-shooting Maine squad, 87-78, Thursday evening inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
The victory upped Notre Dame’s home win streak to 25 games.
The Black Bears led 64-63 midway through the second half, but Notre Dame (6-4) put together a 10-0 run with four minutes left to secure the hard-fought victory.
Cooley showed no signs of wear after battling an illness for the better part of a week, making a number of hustle plays in the second half to help the Irish stave off the Black Bears. The junior also knocked down eight of nine free throw attempts.
Atkins made a career-best five 3-pointers and dished out a team-high six assists to lead the Notre Dame offense, while fellow sophomore guard Alex Dragicevich added 14 points in 31 minutes of action.
The hot-shooting Black Bears connected on 34-of-63 (.540) field goal attempts, but were outmatched physically by the Irish frontcourt. Notre Dame held a 34-26 edge on the glass, converted 19 second-chance points, and took 28 free throws to Maine’s five. Bolstered by Cooley and Dragicevich, the Notre Dame bench outscored the Black Bears’ unit, 42-8.
Maine (3-3) converted seven of its first nine shots and jumped out to an early 15-9 lead. Notre Dame trimmed the margin to two (17-15) on a 3-pointer by Atkins, spurting a 16-5 run over the next 5:39 to give the Irish a 28-22 advantage with 7:51 to go in the first half.
Maine responded by scoring seven of the next nine points to move within one (30-29), and the Black Bears continued to give the Irish all they could handle in the final six minutes of the half.
Dragicevich nailed a 3-pointer to extend the Notre Dame cushion to 37-33, but the Irish could not create any breathing room, as Maine cut the lead to one on three separate occasions. With Notre Dame holding a 42-41 edge and the clock winding down in the first half, Atkins overshot a last-second three-pointer, but Cooley was there with the put back as time expired to give the Irish a three-point lead at the break.
Notre Dame shot an impressive 53.1 percent (17-32) from the floor in the opening half, but were bested from the floor by the Black Bears, who connected on 18-of-30 attempts (.600). Maine’s Alasdair Fraser led all scorers with 17 first-half points.
A 3-point play by Cooley gave the Irish a 50-44 edge, but the Black Bears responded with a 9-2 run and took their first lead since the 9:38 mark of the first half on a jumper by Raheem Singleton (53-52). Five-straight points from Atkins moved Notre Dame back in front, 57-53, but the back and forth action continued, as Maine regained the lead at 60-59 on a 3-point play by Justin Edwards with 10:25 to go in the game.
With the Black Bears holding a 64-63 edge, Cooley converted a strong drive to the hoop, and posted the next four points for Notre Dame to help the home team regain a four-point lead at 71-67. A 3-pointer by Gerald McLemore moved Maine back within one (73-72) at the 3:54 mark, but the Irish took control from there, using a 10-0 run over the next 2:18 to effectively put the game away
McLemore paced the Maine effort with 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, while Edwards added 20 points and six rebounds in 38 minutes. Fraser, who led the Black Bears with 17 points at the break, was held without a field goal in the second half.
Notre Dame returns to action on Saturday against Ivy League foe Dartmouth at 7:30 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion.