Scott Martin is unavailable for Notre Dame, so it would help if another upperclassman steps up – with Jack Cooley a prime candidate.
Cooley has had success in the past against South Florida heading into Saturday's road matchup for the No. 24 Fighting Irish.Coach Mike Brey announced Wednesday that he is shutting down Martin indefinitely. The graduate student has seen recurring knee problems flare up over his last four games, totaling seven points."We need to shut him down and see if he can get back and have one more run for us," Brey said. "I hope he does but I don't know if we can count on that quite frankly."Cooley is the Big East's top rebounder at 10.6 per game and Notre Dame's top scorer at 14.8 points per game. The senior is averaging 11.3 points in the Fighting Irish's three conference losses, with 10 and 10 rebounds in Monday's 63-47 home defeat to Georgetown.The big man has been more like himself in his last three against the Bulls (10-8, 1-5), averaging 14.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting."I think Jack maybe puts a lot of pressure on himself to say, 'I've got to get us going' and maybe forces some plays in there," Brey said. "There's a fine line within our offense of establishing Jack in the post and him coming out and ball-screening."Notre Dame (15-4, 3-3) has won seven straight in this series. South Florida shot 38.2 percent in two losses last season.The Bulls rank last in the conference in points per game (61.6) and field-goal percentage (40.8). They shot 33.9 percent in Wednesday's 55-47 loss at Seton Hall."Our shooting has to improve quite a bit," coach Stan Heath told South Florida's official website. "We've got to rebound the ball and find a way to generate some more points in some of these games."Notre Dame can relate after shooting a season-low 34.7 percent against the Hoyas. The effort was uncharacteristic since the Irish shoot a Big East-high 49.8 percent.The Irish have been outrebounded in five straight games after allowing Georgetown to hold a 35-24 advantage. The Bulls have been outrebounded in every Big East game with a league-worst minus-4.2 margin.The glass remains a concern for Brey."They're a tough group, they defend you, they're athletic, bouncing up on our backboard," he said of South Florida. "That worries me with how we've given up some volleyball stuff lately."The Bulls' top three scorers all average less than 11 points, led by Victor Rudd's 10.9.Their best player may be Anthony Collins, who will face Eric Atkins in a meeting of point guards among the NCAA's leaders in assists per game.Strong play from Collins and Atkins are why both teams do not turn the ball over much. That should hurt the Bulls, who have forced 32 turnovers in their last two games."We're forcing more turnovers the last two games and those led to some transition baskets, so it really picked up in that area," Heath said.The Bulls are 8-4 in the Sun Dome, which was refurbished before this season."I'm interested to see it," Brey said. "I heard they've done a great job and they're playing well there."