Dec 14, 2002
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – For the first time in 21 years, Notre Dame went into a game as a Top 10 team and came out of it still looking like a Top 10 team.
Matt Carroll made sure of that.
Carroll had a career-high 33 points and No. 10 Notre Dame missed only two 2-point shots in the first half in a 102-71 victory over DePaul on Saturday. Carroll was 9-of-10 on 2-pointers for the Irish (9-1).
The Irish, who jumped to No. 10 in the poll Monday after beating three teams ranked in the Top 15 a week earlier, won as a Top 10 team for the first time since 1981.
“Today was a game that I wanted real bad,” Carroll said. “My team needed this game. I think a lot of people expected us to have a letdown this game and it was something I didn’t want our team to have.”
Carroll and his teammates remember well that two years ago the Irish rose to No. 10 after winning their first four, then lost to Indiana and Miami of Ohio. In 1985, the Irish rose to No. 10 and lost their next game to Indiana, then rose again to No. 10 in the final poll of that season and lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in the NCAA tournament.
This time, there was no post-poll letdown.
“It was a big game for us because the country was looking to see if there was going to have a letdown,” said Chris Thomas, who added 22 points and 10 assists for the Irish.
DePaul (4-1) fell a win shy of getting off to their best start since the 1986-87 season.
First-year coach Dave Leitao was disappointed in the performance of the Blue Demons, but not in their effort.
“To borrow a saying, building a program is a motion picture, not a snapshot,” he said. “You look at today and it’s not a pretty picture, but I like to think over the long haul we’ll be better.”
“Today was a game that I wanted real bad. My team needed this game.Matt Carroll
Notre Dame shot 63 percent in the first half, including 87.5 percent from 2-point range, to open a 48-36 lead.
“It was great to see us build a lead and we didn’t have to do it from the 3-point line,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We got into the basket because they were so aware of the shooters and were spread out.”
The Blue Demons managed to keep within about 12 points early in the second half until Carroll converted on a three-point play with 11:40 left. Carroll was running across the free-throw lane, stopped and got off the shot as Sam Hoskin ran into him.
Carroll scored 12 points as the Irish went on a 27-7 run that put the game out of reach.
The Irish shot a season-high 60 percent against the Blue Demons – the first time this season a DePaul opponent had shot better than 50 percent.
Dan Miller added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Irish and Torin Francis had 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. The Irish were 27-of-36 (75 percent) from 2-point range for the game and 39-of-43 from the free-throw line as they broke 90 for the fourth time in five games.
Hoskin had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead to DePaul, which shot just 36.2 percent. Andre Brown had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Quemont Greer added 12 points.
The game marked only the second time since 1994 that the two longtime rivals have faced, and Ray Meyer, who coached the Blue Demons for 42 years, was on hand to see the Irish win for the second straight time.
The Irish are off now for finals until facing Canisius on Dec. 3. Brey said he’s not worried about the Irish suffering a letdown.
“Our guys understand how this thing works,” he said.