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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Exorcising Demons

Chris Khorey | Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Colin Falls called it the “hardest loss of [his] career.”Last week, Notre Dame fell to DePaul 67-66 on a dunk in the closing seconds by forward Wilson Chandler. Falls had been holding the ball near mid-court when Blue Demons guard Draelon Burns stole it and hit a streaking Chandler for the winning basket.Tonight, the Irish senior guard and his teammates have a chance at revenge as they take on the Blue Demons at 7 at the Joyce Center.”We owe them,” Falls said. “They’re a good basketball team but this is a huge week for us and we’re really excited.”The No. 23 Irish (20-6, 8-5 Big East) are chasing a bye in the Big East tournament. They are currently in a four-way tie for fourth place, but control their own destiny. Notre Dame holds tie-breakers over fellow 8-5 teams Syracuse and West Virginia and plays Marquette Saturday with a chance to earn that head-to-head tie-breaker as well.”This is the biggest week of our season,” Falls said.The Irish finish the regular season March 3 at Rutgers.With just three games to go and Big East seeding and an NCAA Tournament bid on the line, Falls said the team is the most focused it’s been.”We’re not going to lose games down the stretch based on effort,” the senior said.Falls is coming off a 23-point performance Saturday against Cincinnati, his fourth straight game as high-point man for the Irish. For the season, he is averaging 14.8 points per game, second on the team to senior guard Russell Carter’s 17.2. Falls had 20 points in the first matchup, while Carter struggled to just nine against the quick DePaul defense.The Blue Demons (16-11, 7-6) have plenty of motivation tonight as well. They are sitting one game behind the log-jam for fourth place and need to win out to have a shot at the Big Dance.Notre Dame big men Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody will be tested by DePaul forwards Chandler, Karron Clarke and Marcus Heard, who average a combined 28 points per game. The Irish interior defense struggled in the first matchup, allowing the Blue Demon trio to combine for 41 of DePaul’s 67 points. Kurz made up for it on the offensive end of the floor, scoring 15 points, but Harangody struggled against Wilson’s defense, shooting just 2-of-10 from the floor and scoring five points.Irish forward Zach Hillesland could prove to be the difference in the game. Hillesland played just 12 minutes in the first matchup, scoring two points, but has come on strong of late – averaging 10.5 points per game since.