Meeting for the second time in less than two weeks, the DePaul Blue Demons and Notre Dame Fighting Irish renew their long- standing rivalry, this time at Purcell Pavilion.
DePaul is enduring yet another dismal campaign in the Big East Conference, dragging a 1-9 league ledger into this contest, which has the team just a half game ahead of 1-10 South Florida for last place. The Blue Demons have lost eight straight since posting their lone conference win at Providence on Jan. 5, and the team is sporting an overall record of 10-13, although it is 4-4 in true road games. DePaul's most recent setback came against another ranked foe in Marquette last Saturday on the road, 89-78.
Notre Dame is having a much different season, the team winning 19 of its first 24 bouts, including seven of 11 in Big East play. The Fighting Irish, who have won four of their last five, are within two games of first place in the conference standings, and they played an epic game this past Saturday against one of the teams they'll have to pass as they outlasted No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes, 104-101. It was the longest game in both UND and Big East regular-season history, and it improved the Irish to 8-2 in their last 10 extra-session affairs. The exhausting win also moved Notre Dame to 14-2 at home this season,
With their 79-71 overtime win at DePaul on Feb. 2, a game in which Jack Cooley logged a monster double-double with 26 points and 16 rebounds, the Fighting Irish upped their lead in the all-time series to 59-44. UND has won the last eight meetings, and the Blue Demons haven't won in South Bend since joining the Big East in 2005 (0-5).
Brandon Young scored 21 points and dished out six assists, and Donnavan Kirk and Worrel Clahar added 16 points apiece, but those efforts went for naught as DePaul dropped an 11-point decision at Marquette over the weekend. The Blue Demons converted nearly 50 percent of their field goal attempts, drilling 9- of-20 shots from 3-point range, and they went 11-of-12 at the foul line, but the Golden Eagles dropped 56.4 percent of their total shots and were a sizzling 24-of-27 from the charity stripe. Additionally, Marquette used significant margins both in bench points (36-7) and points in the paint (50-30) to thwart the upset bid of the visiting Blue Demons. For the season, Young and Cleveland Melvin are the club's only double-digit scorers, netting 16.6 and 16.3 ppg, respectively. DePaul hasn't had much trouble putting points on the board (73.3 ppg), but it has had difficulty keeping the opposition from doing the same (73.5 ppg). One area of [defensive] strength however, is the fact that the Blue Demons force an average of 16.2 turnovers per tilt.
Several guys played integral roles in last Saturday's marathon win over Louisville, a half dozen of which scored in double figures for a Notre Dame team that shot just 41.6 percent from the field, missing 18 of its 25 3-point tries along the way. The Irish did however, score 33 points at the free-throw line, and outscored the Cardinals in bench points, 39-31. In the five overtime periods combined, UND outshot UofL from the floor (.483 to .419). Jerian Grant led the way for coach Mike Brey's club with 19 points, adding six assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals to his stat line, which looked much less impressive when he was 0-of-6 from the field until going 4-of-4, including a trio of 3-pointers, in tallying 12 points in the final 45 seconds of regulation. Garrick Sherman was next in line with 17 points, but he did not log a single minute in the game until well into the first extra session, and he grabbed six boards as well. Pat Connaughton was huge in recording a double- double consisting of 16 points and 14 rebounds, and he also paced the team with seven assists. Cooley also had another double-double with his 11 points and 11 caroms. Cooley (14.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg), Grant (13.0 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Eric Atkins (11.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) lead UND in just about every statistical category this season, the team as a whole averaging 73.2 ppg while yielding 63.9 ppg.