Jack Cooley expected a nice smattering of applause as he prepared to take his final bow at Purcell Pavilion.
Instead, the Notre Dame senior walked off to a crescendo of raucous noise, most of it in reaction to a tussle escalating off to his side.
Fans who rose to their feet in honor of Cooley remained standing as a fight broke out near center court, mere nanoseconds after Cooley’s name was called for the final time. St. John’s swingman Sir’Dominic Pointer and Notre Dame freshman hotshot Cameron Biedscheid were at the heart of the scrum, each exchanging blows before a swarm of players, Cooley among them, hustled over to separate the two.
Notice Cooley, appropriately named for his coolness under pressure, changing roles in a pinch from farwell-bidding celebrant to violence-fanning hero.
Hearing the ever-combustible Bob Knight, of all people, blether about “how dumb” the altercation was marked the peak of hypocrisy. That’s rich.
Pointer clearly initiated the physical portion of the scuffle, though Biedscheid, a proud trash-talker, likely said something to tip Pointer over the edge. The NCAA has an automatic ejection rule for throwing a punch — be it the first blow, a retaliatory hit or swing purely out of self-defense. As a result, Biedscheid, who appeared to be trying to protect himself, not instigate more contact, was tossed from the game along with Pointer.
Each player will serve a one-game suspension in the season finale, per Big East rules governing ejections. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is expected to appeal the suspension, which, if enforced, would wipe Biedscheid out of the team’s rematch with five-overtime partner Louisville.
Whether he plays on Saturday, Biedscheid certainly put the “Fighting” back into the “Irish.”