Feb. 11, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to a season-best six games with an 84-76 victory over visiting DePaul Saturday afternoon inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
The Blue Demons stayed with the Irish throughout the game and led 68-65 with less than eight minutes to play, but Notre Dame (17-8, 9-3 BIG EAST) used a key 10-0 run late in the contest to secure the win and improve the team’s home record to 13-1 on the season.
Junior forward Jack Cooley posted his second-consecutive double-double and eighth of the season with a career-high tying 22 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Cooley went 10-for-12 from the field and tied a career-high total with four blocked shots.
The backcourt tandem of sophomore guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins combined for 36 points and 11 assists, as Grant posted a career-best 22 points and five helpers, while Atkins added 14 points, six assists and three steals for Notre Dame.
DePaul (11-13, 2-10 BIG EAST) held a 40-10 edge in bench scoring and scored 17 points off 12 Notre Dame turnovers, but the Irish neutralized the DePaul attack by shooting 59.6 percent (31-52) from the floor, including an impressive 66.7 mark (16-24) in the second half.
Notre Dame held a 33-23 advantage on the glass, marking the fifth time in six games the Irish out-rebounded their opponent. The strong rebounding edge led to 13 second-chance points and helped the home team finish strong around the basket with 38 points in the paint.
The Irish took an early 10-6 lead on a dunk from Cooley, but the Blue Demons responded with a 10-4 run to hold a slight 16-14 edge after nine minutes of action. DePaul extended its advantage to seven (25-18) on a jumper by Jeremiah Kelly, but the Irish answered with six straight points to move back within one at 25-24 with 7:21 to play in the first half. Notre Dame regained the lead, 29-28, on a jumper by Scott Martin, and after a back and fourth final five minutes of action, the teams entered the break tied at 34.
The Irish, who entered the game ranked seventh nationally with just 10.5 turnovers per game, committed nine in an uncharacteristically sloppy first half. The Blue Demons held a 12-0 advantage in points off turnovers and a 15-7 edge in bench scoring, but the Irish shot 53.6 percent (15-28) from the field and notched 20 of their 34 points in the paint to offset the turnover margin.
The opening five minutes of the second half featured five lead changes and a much quicker pace as the teams traded baskets up and down the floor. Notre Dame built a 45-41 lead on a 3-pointer by Atkins and held a 49-46 edge after a dunk by Cooley at the 16:04 mark. DePaul tied it up at 49 on a triple by Jamee Crockett, but the Irish regained the lead on yet another strong finish by Cooley. A fast break lay-in by Atkins moved Notre Dame back in front by four (55-51) and forced a timeout by DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell.
With the Irish holding a 61-54 advantage at the 11:14 mark, DePaul began to mount a comeback. After a three-pointer by Kelly cut the lead to four, a fast break lay-in by Brandon Young and two free throws by Kelly erased the Irish lead and tied the score at 61. A strong finish to the basket by Kelly moved the Blue Demons back in front, 63-61, and completed a 9-0 run by the visitors.
DePaul extended the lead to three (66-63) on a three-point play by Donnavan Kirk, but seven straight points by Grant fueled a 10-0 run by the Irish – capped with a 3-pointer by Dragicevich – that powered Notre Dame back in front by seven at 75-68. Baskets on consecutive possessions by Cleveland Melvin cut the Irish lead to three (75-72) with 3:28 to go, but DePaul could not get any closer for the remainder of the game.
Kelly led the Blue Demons with 17 points and a team-high four assists, while Melvin added 16 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes of play.
The Irish are now 11-0 on the season when they out-rebound their opponent.
Notre Dame returns to action on Wednesday against Rutgers. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion.