Cooley scores 18 as No. 8 Notre Dame beats USF

Jack Cooley came off the bench during an early 22-0 run and finished with a career-high 18 points, leading No. 8 Notre Dame to a 78-55 rout of South Florida on Saturday.

The victory is the seventh straight for the Fighting Irish (21-4, 10-3), who have won three straight Big East road games for the first time in 10 years.

Cooley made his first nine shots — giving him a stretch of 14 consecutive field goals over two games — before missing a 15-footer in the closing minutes.

Carleton Scott scored 13 points and Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis had 12 apiece for Notre Dame, which had six players score in double figures.

Shaun Noriega led South Florida (8-18, 2-11) with a career-best 23 points.

Notre Dame's seven-game conference winning streak is its longest in Big East regular-season play since the Irish won their last five of 2006-07 and the first two league games the following season. It's the team's best stretch within the same season since 2000-01, when the Irish won eight straight Big East games.

The loss was the 13th in 15 games for South Florida, which blew a 16-point second-half lead in falling 59-58 to Marquette last Wednesday. The Bulls were never in this one, missing 11 of their first 12 shots and shooting 20 percent in the opening half — 30.4 percent for the game.

Scott, Abromaitis and Scott Martin hit 3-pointers during the first-half surge that carried Notre Dame to a 24-3 lead. Much of the damage was inflicted after Hansbrough went to the bench with two fouls, with Cooley making three layups to help take up the slack for the absence of the Big East's third-leading scorer.

The Irish led 41-17 at halftime, with Hansbrough only having two points on 1-for-2 shooting. The senior averaged 24.2 points over the previous five games and played long enough in the second half to finish 5 of 10 from the field with eight assists and two steals.

Cooley entered averaging 3.8 points per game. But he was 5 for 5 for 10 points in 13 minutes of Notre Dame's overtime victory over Louisville earlier in the week and took up where he left off in that performance.

Martin and Tyrone Nash each scored 10 points for Notre Dame. Since consecutive lopsided road losses to Marquette and St. John's in early January, the Fighting Irish have put together their first three-game conference road winning streak since 2000-01.