Wed Mar 03 09:16pm EST
If you thought you caught a glimpse of injured Notre Dame star Luke Harangody battling for rebounds in the low post on Wednesday night, you probably weren't alone in making that mistake.
No, Harangody didn't make a miraculous recovery from the bone bruise that may sideline him for the rest of the season. It's just that the all-American's backup is such a dead ringer for him that you swear he's a clone Notre Dame had made in a lab somewhere on campus.
The photo on the right is Harangody, the 6-foot-8, 246-pound low-post scoring and rebounding machine who led the Big East in scoring and rebounding before he got hurt a few weeks ago. The photo on the left is Jack Cooley, Harangody's 6-foot-9, 244-pound apprentice who has filled in admirably the past few weeks in his stead.
Although Cooley isn't the instant star that Harangody was when he arrived on campus, he's endeared himself to Irish fans with his hustle and grit. He's averaged four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes in Notre Dame's last four games, helping the Irish make a sudden late-season surge to revive their once-dead NCAA tournament hopes.
With last week's wins over Georgetown and Pittsburgh and Wednesday's victory over fellow bubble team UConn, Notre Dame has put itself in position to earn an at-large bid with a another win or two. The Irish visit Marquette on Saturday and then begin Big East conference tournament play.
Harangody isn't likely to return against Marquette and may not play again at all this season, but the Irish have amazingly looked better without him by spreading the floor, attacking the defense off the dribble and working for better shots. And just in case things start to go bad without Harangody, the Irish can always feed Cooley in the post and use their imagination.