SOUTH BEND — With sixth-year senior Scott Martin out of the lineup Saturday with a bad knee, Notre Dame turned to its big men inside.
Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman responded. Cooley had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Sherman added 11 points and seven boards in his first start at Notre Dame to help the Irish beat St. Francis of Pennsylvania 69-52.
“Scotty goes down, but we don’t miss a beat, really,” Cooley said. “That shows a lot about the team.”
Eric Atkins and Cameron Biedscheid each scored 13 points as well for the Irish, who outrebounded the Red Flash 42-25. Jerian Grant added 11 points and dished out a team-best nine assists for the Irish.
Cooley, a senior, recorded double figures in points and rebounds in the same game for the 17th time in his career.
Umar Shannon scored 14 points and Ollie Jackson had 12 points on four 3-pointers for St. Francis (0-5), which lost its ninth straight road game dating back to last season. The Irish (5-1) have won 39 of their last 40 home games and improved to 44-0 all-time in November under coach Mike Brey.
The Irish never trailed and blew the game open halfway through the second half with a 13-1 run that pushed their lead to 24 points with 5:45 to play. They led by as many as 25 points before both coaches sent in their reserves. Cooley scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, including five in Notre Dame’s decisive run.
“Methodical,” Brey said in describing the win. “We are who we are and that’s just how we play.”
Biedscheid came in for Sherman, who went to the locker room early in the game after being poked in the eye. By the time Sherman returned, Biedscheid had drained three 3-point shots and the Irish led by eight halfway through the first half.
“We’re always looking for Cam to shoot it,” Cooley said. “That kid’s a scorer and that’s what he’s got to do to be effective. He’s an assassin.”
Sherman, a Michigan State transfer, was making his first start for Notre Dame in place of Martin, who missed the game due to tendinitis in his left knee — he missed the 2009-10 season with a torn ACL after transferring from Purdue and the NCAA granted Martin an extra year of eligibility earlier this year.
Sherman scored three straight buckets for the Irish during one second-half stretch, highlighted by a one-handed catch and scoop off a long pass from Atkins.
“They’re big and they keep bringing big guys off the bench,” said Red Flash coach Rob Krimmel. “A couple times, their bigs outran us and I thought that was the difference — the inside.”
St. Francis tried to shorten the game with long possessions early on, regularly running the shot clock down under 10 seconds.
Notre Dame led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but the Red Flash got that advantage under double digits on Shannon’s floater in the lane with 28 seconds left before halftime. Grant answered with a fallaway jumper with 5 seconds to go, then Atkins stole the St. Francis inbounds pass and scored at the buzzer to push the Irish lead to 12 at the break.