Irish Defense Poses Problems for Demons

As "Rivalry Week" continues this week, DePaul (11-12, 2-9) will follow up a contest with Marquette by traveling to another heated rival in Notre Dame (16-8, 8-3) this Saturday afternoon.

After jumping out quickly against Marquette, the Demons eventually ran out of steam, losing 89-76 on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish are on a five-game winning streak and are fresh off a 55-51 victory at West Virginia on Wednesday night.

After losing Big East First Team member Tim Abromaitis in the early going, the Irish were expected to struggle. At first, the Irish showed some times of weakness in December and early January. However, credit coach Mike Brey for keeping the Irish afloat as they have a balanced attack that can wear opponents down. The Irish are now in third place in the Big East.

In their last four victories a different player has led Notre Dame in scoring as the team gets contributions from a myriad of players. Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins, and Scott Martin all average over nine points per game.

Cooley leads the team in rebounding (8.6) and is a threat to get a double-double at a moment's notice. Cooley's .594 shooting percentage is also second in the Big East. Atkins and Grant make for a great backcourt and can knock down shots with regularity. Martin adds veteran experience in the frontcourt and has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games played.

The Irish get it done with defense. Notre Dame ranks first in defensive points allowed in the Big East by giving up just 57.6 points per game, and have allowed only 51.6 points per game in their five-game winning streak.

Beating Notre Dame on their home court will be a tough task as the Irish are 31-1 in their last 32 home games at Purcell Pavilion. Moreover, Notre Dame's .878 winning percentage at home in the last six years is the best mark in the Big East.

DePaul has to hope its press can effectively disrupt ND's steady backcourt and get some easy buckets off transition. It won't be an easy assignment to win at Notre Dame, but a win would end a three-game losing streak and give the Blue Demons much needed confidence to finish the Big East schedule strong.


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