Six the Hard Way

For the first time in league play, defense appeared optional for Mike Brey's upstart Irish, but Notre Dame won its sixth straight regardless with a 84-76 conquest of DePaul in South Bend.

South Bend – Tied at 68 with 6:38 remaining, Notre Dame used a 7-0 run–one started by a technical foul call on DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell–to distance themselves from a game DePaul team, finally subduing the Blue Demons 84-76 at the Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame's 84 points was its highest total in Big East play this season. Many were courtesy a pace preferred and set by their youthful visitors.

Thanks to consistent full-court defensive pressure and poor interior defense, 21 of the host's 31 field goals were the result of dunks or layups. The Irish layup line began early and continued throughout the contest.

Notre Dame converted three layups, two dunks, and a pair of free throws before its first made jump shot. Assists accompanied 11 of the team's first 14 buckets including nine consecutive field goals in one stretch.

But still the coolly-efficient Irish couldn't separate from the confident, hot-shooting Blue Demons.

Nine first-half Irish turnovers (the team averages 10 per game) contributed to a 34-34 deadlock at the break, but so too did DePaul's apparent team-wide green light, one forged by an up-tempo attack and full-court press following each basket.

The Blue Demons hit 14 of their 29 first half shots and finished an impressive 9 of 16 from long range by game's end, but Notre Dame's decisive 33-21 advantage on the glass and some leaky interior defense by Purnell's freshmen and sophomore-laden group proved too much to overcome.

Irish junior center Jack Cooley controlled the paint from the outset, scoring 10 points on 5-5 shooting with 8 boards in the opening half; finishing with a game bests 22 points, 14 boards, and 4 blocks. Cooley missed just two of his 12 field goal attempts in 36 minutes.

Aiding the big man's effort was redshirt-freshman Jerian Grant. Grant posted a personal Big East best 22 points on just 10 field goal attempts. He connected on all eight free throws and scored a crucial seven consecutive Irish points to help erase his team's final deficit near the game's 7-minute mark. 15 of his 22 came in the second half.

After a rough first half, Eric Atkins finished with 14 points including five of Notre Dame's final nine to seal the win.

DePaul senior guard Jeremiah Kelly scored 17 to pace the visitors. The Big East's third-leading scorer Cleveland Melvin was held two points below his average, finishing with 16 on 18 field goal attempts. James Crockett and Brandon Young contributed 13 apiece in defeat.

With the loss, DePaul fell to 2-10 in league play. The Blue Demons began the season 9-3 but have since scuffled to an 11-13 record overall.

The Irish moved to 9-3 in league play (17-8 overall) and will host Rutgers Wednesday, a rematch one month following the Scarlet Knights's 7-point win over the Irish in Piscataway. The loss at Rutgers marked the last for Mike Brey's upstart group, winners of six straight.

Change of Pace; About Face

The first five games of Notre Dame's current winning streak each involved a dedicated team defensive effort and a tempo controlled by the underdog Irish and their Burn offense. The underdogs controlled today's tempo, too, but it was Brey's favored squad that often played sloppy on offense and less-than-inspired defense.

Boasting the league's best three-point defense entering the contest (22.5 percent), the Irish gave up nine three-point buckets on 16 attempts. DePaul repeatedly hit mid-range shots over flat-footed Notre Dame defenders as well.

The Irish defense maintained one constant: no DePaul player totaled 20 points, the 12th straight game in as many league matchups in which Notre Dame did not allow a 20-plus point scorer.

In addition to its 33-21 rebound margin, Notre Dame held a 42-18 scoring edge in the paint.

Brey's Irish have won 44 of their last 50 Big East home games including 32 of the last 33, and are 30-9 in all league contests (including tournament play) dating back to a mid-February 2010 double overtime loss at Louisville…the contest marking the first appearance of the team's oft-reference "Burn" offense.

Notre Dame has prevailed in 97 of its last 104 home games, the third-best mark in the nation over that span.

Tied for second-place with Marquette–a team the Irish beat by 17 one week ago today–the Irish have three home and three road games remaining. They're 4-2 in conference road games this season and since February 2010, have won 11 of their last 17 Big East road games, a remarkable streak considering Brey's '10 group lost its previous five prior to discovering their road warrior personas.

The team's current six-game winning is the program's third of at least that many since the aforementioned invention of the Burn. The Irish won seven straight league games late last season en route to a 14-4, second-place finish.

Notre Dame's remaining schedule is as follows: Rutgers (Feb. 15), at Villanova (Feb. 18), West Virginia (Feb. 22), at St. John's (Feb. 25), at Georgetown (Feb. 27), Providence (Mar. 2).


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