Colin Falls scored all 19 of his points in the first half to help stake the Irish to an 18-point intermission lead and they never looked back en route to a 78-54 win over the Blue Demons. Notre Dame, in maybe their most complete contest of the year, moves to 21-6 on the season and 9-5 in the Big East. On the year, the Irish are a perfect 17-0 at the Joyce Center, the most victories ever for a single-season at home, and now have a 19-game winning streak in South Bend dating back to last season. After a heartbreaking defeat at DePaul 12 days ago, the Irish have reeled off three critical wins in a row to solidify their Big Dance status.
The biggie is on Saturday. Notre Dame will host Marquette in a contest with huge implications in the league. The 16th ranked Golden Eagles are 22-7 and 9-5 in the conference, tied with the Irish. The top four seeds get byes in the Big East Tournament. With Notre Dame already holding the tiebreaker over West Virginia (8-6) and Syracuse (8-5), an Irish win would give them the inside edge on rest in New York City. On Tuesday, Falls' huge first half performance, followed by an all-around team effort in the final 20 minutes, were the main determinants for the blowout win.
"We handled this stretch pretty good, three games in six days," Brey said. "I thought we defended well and that was key for the most part. We kept them out of the lane and kept them off the offensive board. We made the toughness hustle plays that I thought was a big factor."
Notre Dame got going early versus the Blue Demons. The Irish were up 12-8 before going on a 15-4 run that stretched the lead to 27-12. In this almost ten minute stretch, DePaul hit only one field goal. Brey mentioned last week that it's not all about stats on the defensive end but stops at critical points. The shut down defense early propelled them to the double-digit lead and the Blue Demons never got closer than 11 points.
Falls was money in the first half. The senior guard nailed 6-of-9 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Last year, Falls was almost exclusively a threat from behind the arc. Now, he's adapted his game to be an all-around threat. Before halftime, he hit shots from three-point land, on the run and around the basket. His rainbow three-pointer right before halftime gave the team a 40-22 lead heading into the locker room. It was his tenth straight contest eclipsing double-digit points and Falls has become the main scoring threat the past few weeks.
"The thing you like about Colin Falls is that here is your senior guy playing his best basketball at the right time," Brey said. "I think it shows you have a winner in Colin Falls because he's in a groove when the most is on the table. I'm very proud of him and he continues to lead. He's playing with a real confident demeanor at the perfect time."
"I'm glad I won't be here for Colin's senior night," DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright said. "He's a Chicago kid and a really good kid. He's upped his level of play. He starts the game with a three off the jump ball where the ball is bouncing around and when you get guys started that way, it hurts you. I thought he had a good leadership of his teammates."
DePaul never seriously threatened in the second half. The Blue Demons closed the Notre Dame lead to 45-33 before a huge Irish run put the contest away for good. Tory Jackson was the driving force behind the spurt. The freshman point guard, rapidly improving every game out on the court, scored three buckets in the nail-in-the-coffin 14-2 run that made it 59-35. All of these made shots were via penetration into the paint area and his rising offensive game makes Notre Dame, tops in the Big East in scoring, even harder to defend. Jackson finished with 13 points and for good measure pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and dished out six assists in his best game in an Irish uniform."Is there a freshman that means more to his team than Tory Jackson?" Brey asked after the game. "I'm biased but I don't think so because of what we've asked this guy to do. We handed him the ball at the end of December and he keeps getting better. He's our heart beat in a lot of ways and he's out identity. He continues to get better and he's a very confident guy."
Contributions were everywhere on the stat sheet for the Irish. Rob Kurz had another productive day down low. The junior forward scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds as his consistent play is a given almost every night out for Notre Dame. Russell Carter, the league's third leading scorer, shot poorly again. The senior was just 4-of-13 from the field for 13 points. In the last seven games, Carter is 27-of-78 from the floor, good for 34 percent. He was picked up by Luke Harangody's 13 points and seven rebounds as the Irish had five players in double figures on Tuesday.
Chandler 4-13, 1-2 9; Thompson 0-2, 0—2; Currie 1-3, 4-4 6; Burns 4-11, 3-4 11; Mejia 8-18, 0-0 17; Green 0-0, 0-0 0; Clarke 2-5, 0-0 5; Clinkscales 0-0, 0-0 0; Moses 0-1, 0-0 0; Handler 0-0, 0-0 0; Heard 1-3, 2-3 4; Walker 0-1, 0-0 0; Butler 1-4, 0-0 2; Totals: 21-61 (34 percent), 10-13 54.
NOTRE DAME 78
Kurz 5-6, 2-2 15; Harangody 5-12, 3-4 13; Jackson 6-9, 1-2 13; Falls 6-12, 3-3 19; Carter 4-13, 4-6 13; Harden 0-0, 0-0 0; Peoples 0-0, 0-0 0; Hillesland 1-3, 0-0 2; Piller 0-0, 0-0 0; Zeller 0-0, 0-0 0; Ayers 1-2, 0-0 3; Totals: 28-57 (49 percent), 13-17 78.