College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Notre Dame won its seventh straight game, topping Rutgers, 71-53, to run their record to 18-8 and 10-3 in the Big East, tying Marquette for second place in the conference behind 13-1 Syracuse (26-1 overall).
The Fighting Irish are the only team to have beaten Syracuse this season, taking advantage of the absence of center Fab Melo in a 67-58 home win back on January 21. That win, which ended a two-game losing streak, must have given the Irish confidence, because they haven't lost since and now appear to be a lock for an NCAA invite.
Hard-nosed center, Jack Cooley, led all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, going 6 of 9 from the foul line. While he wasn't putting the ball in the basket, Cooley was rebounding missed shots, pulling down 18, eight of them on the offensive end.
The way they're playing, Notre Dame should cruise into the Big East tourney in the first week of March with a full head of steam. They have only five games remaining on their schedule and just one is against a ranked team, a February 27 visit to #10 Georgetown. The Irish are ranked #23 in the latest poll, but could be moving up if they continue their winning ways.
NOTABLE: In the Top 26 pantheon, there's a new kid on the block. That would be the #24 Wichita State Shockers, the leader in the Missouri Valley conference, at 14-2, with a two-game lead over second place Creighton (12-4). The Shockers improved to 23-4 with a 73-58 road win over Missouri State on Tuesday, their fifth straight win and 13th in their last 14.
In the West, New Mexico dumped #13 San Diego State, 77-67, and #21 St. Mary's fell to Loyola Marymount, 75-60, both ranked teams failing on their home courts. All other ranked teams in action - Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri and Murray State - were victorious.