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Notre Dame Pounds the Paint to Defeat Dartmouth

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Gabas Maldunas     By Joe Raymond

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With a decided size disadvantage, the Dartmouth men’s basketball game could not contain Notre Dame on Saturday evening at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center as the host Fighting Irish pounded the paint to cruise to a 65-47 victory. Jack Cooley led all players with 22 points in leading Notre Dame (7-4) to its 26th consecutive home victory . The lone player in double figures for Dartmouth (2-6) was freshman Gabas Maldunas with 12 points.

The Irish hounded the Big Green shooters all night, holding them to a season-low 30 percent (15-of-50) while blocking 11 shots. Maldunas hit 5-of-12 from the floor and both free throws, plus grabbed nine rebounds — five at the offensive end. While Notre Dame scored 36 points in the paint to just 16 for Dartmouth, the Big Green held their own on the glass with 34 rebounds to UND’s 36.

Cooley was efficient in his 25 minutes on the court, hitting 9-of-11 and all four foul shots to account for his 22 points for a second straight game, plus led UND with nine rebounds and four blocks. He was joined in double figures by Alex Dragicevich with 15 and Joey Brooks off the bench with 13. But the Irish’s two leading scorers available for the game, guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, were both held scoreless by the Dartmouth defense as they shot a combined 0-for-16.

Both teams were hitting shots early as Dartmouth began things off with a Maldunas hook and three-pointer by junior R.J. Griffin from the left wing on a fastbreak. Notre Dame responded by pounding the ball inside as Cooley and Tom Knight each laid in a pair of shots. But a David Rufful triple tied the game at 10 before the first media timeout.

Field goals were hard to come by for the rest of the half for the Big Green, however, as the Irish defense held Dartmouth to just two more buckets. Notre Dame, meanwhile, continued to pound the ball down low, and by the break had 24 points in the paint compared to just four for the Green. That led to a 13-point difference at the half, 37-24.

Dartmouth shot just 26.1 percent (6-of-23) for the opening stanza with freshman Jvonte Brooks leading the Big Green with seven points, five coming at the line. For the Fighting Irish, Jack Cooley and Joey Brooks each put up nine points while Tom Knight added eight. Notre Dame enjoyed a 19-14 advantage on the board, including seven at the offensive end that led to seven second-chance points.

Cooley scored on Notre Dame’s first two possessions of the second half before Dragicevich knocked down the first Irish three-pointer of the night. Maldunas and senior Jabari Trotter each sank a field goal before Dragicevich popped another trey for a 17-point lead at 47-30.

With 12 minutes to go, Cooley converted a three-point play to boost the lead to 20, then added two more foul shots for the largest lead of the night at 54-32. Senior Kirk Crecco and freshman Mack McKearney, who had a solid contingency down from his home state of Michigan, each drilled a three-pointer for Dartmouth, but the deficit remained between 18 and 22 points for the remainder of the game.

Notre Dame finished the night shooting 40.7 percent (24-of-59) and a woeful 15 percent (3-of-20) from downtown. Both squads were dead-on from the foul line, however, with the Big Green knocking down 13-of-15 (.867) and Notre Dame 14-of-15 (.933).

Dartmouth plays the second of two games in the state of Indiana on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne at 7 p.m. Next up for Notre Dame is a match-up with Indiana on a neutral court in Indianapolis next Saturday at 4:30 p.m.