Jack Cooley is coming off a game he no doubt does not want to remember, but it is also one he will not likely soon forget - at least for another day. Cooley was scoreless while taking just one shot in Notre Dame's 72-64 loss at Marquette Saturday afternoon.
The Fighting Irish senior was limited to just 15 minutes on the floor and did not play after the midway point of the second half. The sluggish play and limited minutes (about half of his usual game total) was the product of a late week bout with the flu that saw him make a trip to the school infirmary.
"He didn't practice the last two days," Irish head coach Mike Brey said after Saturday's loss. We got him off an IV (Friday). In hindsight, I wonder if I should have brought him on this trip. (He had a) virus flu. He wanted to try it and, obviously, he just wasn't there."
With his team down by 14, Cooley gave it another go and tried to start the second half, but after an early breather and a then a return trip to the floor it was obvious he was just not going to be productive.
"The second half, I just said forget it," Brey commented. "Let's get him home and get him healthy for Tuesday."
The last time Cooley was held scoreless in a starting role was on Nov. 21, 2011 in an 87-58 loss to Missouri at the CBE Classic in Kansas City. He was 0-for-1 from the field in that game as well with just one rebound.
The lack of Cooley's physical presence in Saturday's game led to a near career day for Marquette senior Chris Otule, who was just three points off his career-high and surpassed his previous season high (14) with 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting.
All of that is in the rearview mirror now though. Cooley has just one home game left in his career - a Tuesday night matchup with St. John's. The Irish lost 67-63 to the Red Storm back on Jan. 15 at Madison Square Garden.
Cooley, who is averaging team-bests with 13.9 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, was limited to 10 points and five boards in that loss. Recent illness aside, it is one of a handful of games this season where Brey sat Cooley for a spell as he struggled to find himself against a smaller, more athletic team. The biggest thing Brey thinks Cooley needs to do is to be himself - a physically dominant defensive player and rebounder.
"He's fine and that's why I respect the guy," Brey said recently of his big man. "He's never tried to reinvent himself as a player or think he had to do more maybe this year, because it's going to help him professionally. He knows who he is."
"One of the things that's the most underrated about him are his hands," Brey continued of Cooley. "His hands are great. I've seen him snatch the ball away from 6-foot athletic guards in this league time and time again. That's why I think he has the utmost respect from his teammates, because that is physically demanding going after that thing all the time and the body contact that he takes."
Cooley was recently one of five Big East players to be announced as a candidate for the 2013 Naismith Men's College Basketball Player of the Year Award. The 6'9 senior hangs his hat on rebounding. Cooley's 10.6 boards lead the Big East and rank 6th nationally. His 4.2 offensive rebounding total also tops his conference peers and ranks 3rd in the nation. Brey says Cooley has a "relentless" attitude that makes him a great offensive rebounder.
"You tell your big guys, one of your coaching themes is 'don't accept a block out'," Brey said. "A lot of guys accept block outs. Most guys accept block out. Jack Cooley truly does not accept a block out and he's relentless."
Cooley might not always look smooth when he is battling in the paint, but Brey says there is another underrated aspect of his game - his feet.
"He can move his feet when he wants to," Brey praised. "I get on him sometimes about resting on offense or not showing on a ball screen."
"He can really move his feet and dance around people," Brey continued. "You add that with unbelievable strength and will -there's a reason why he gets angles all the time to get his hands on the ball."
Cooley's final home game tips-off at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. In addition to Cooley, Scott Martin, whose Irish career ended prematurely due to a knee injury this season, is among those who will be honored prior to the game. Fellow seniors Tom Knight, Joey Brooks, and Mike Broghammer will be on hand as well.