"Every game has a life of its own,” Bruno said on Thursday.
And the last two regular season games between the two teams have been exciting lives.
In last year’s matchup, No. 18/17 DePaul outscored the No. 3/3 Irish 51-30 in the second half and shot the second best free throw percentage for a game in school history at 16-16, but came up short 95-90 at Purcell Pavilion.
Two years ago, No. 25/25 DePaul shot just 12-29 from the line in losing to No. 5/4 Notre Dame 94-93 in overtime at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
But all of that? Again, gone.
“It doesn’t matter how close [the games] were the last couple of years, it only matters what we do [this Saturday],” Bruno said. “This is a different team than played two years ago and it is a different team that played a year ago, so we still have to show we can come out against this caliber of competition and show that we can play basketball.”
No. 16/15 DePaul (6-2) has losses against No. 1/2 UConn and No. 3/3 Baylor and quality wins versus Northwestern, Western Kentucky, and then-No. 11 Syracuse. The Blue Demons are No. 3 in NCAA RPI as of Thursday. No. 2/1 Notre Dame’s (8-1) loss is to UConn and the Irish’s RPI is No. 2.
“It does seem like it has been a long season already, but I think it has to do with the level of competition we have played so far,” DePaul’s Jessica January said. “We play a high level of competition every year, so other than the freshmen, I think everybody on our team is used to playing such high-caliber teams.”
“I [want] this team to play better than we did against Baylor and UConn,” Bruno said. “There are a lot ways we can do that. We have to get [the players’ attention] off of the UConn game; we have to do what we can control; and we have to overcome our size. And you can’t overcome your size out on the floor, so you have to overcome it in other ways.”
DePaul made 12 three-pointers, including nine in the second half, in its regular season game last year against the Irish.
“It will be important to get good shots [on Saturday],” Bruno said. “And good shots are a product of what you are able to force defenses to give you. And if it is three-pointers [Notre Dame] is going to give us, then we have to be in a position to make them. If they want to run us off the line, then we have to understand how to get shots that are not three-pointers. And that is where this team is a work in progress.”
DePaul and Notre Dame first played each other in 1979 and played each other annually from 1982-1995 and now from 2006-present.
This will be the fifth time January has faced Notre Dame in her career and she understands the importance of what she needs to do to help her team, and the importance of keeping a level head when playing a high-caliber opponent.
“[I have to] keep everybody on the same page and energized,” January said. “I think sometimes when you play a team like Notre Dame or UConn, sometimes you can get timid or intimidated by them.”
This will be the third time DePaul transfer Jacqui Grant will have played Notre Dame, but she understands the rivalry, the opportunity of playing Notre Dame, and that each game is independent of any other game.
“We are going to get their best and they are going to get our best,” Grant said. “And as long as we play our kind of basketball [there is the chance] to win.”
The ball drops on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Central at McGrath-Phillips Arena.