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ND Men’s Basketball: Notre Dame travels to DePaul with healthy Kurz

Joe Meixell | Thursday, February 8, 2007

Good news and bad news await No. 21 Notre Dame for its game against DePaul in Rosemont, Ill., tonight.

The bad news is that the Irish are on the road, where the team is just 3-5 this season and where they are coming off a loss to Big East bottom-feeder South Florida.

The good news is Notre Dame’s leading rebounder, junior forward Rob Kurz, is expected to play his usual 28 minutes against the Blue Demons. Kurz saw limited action in Notre Dame’s 69-63 loss to South Florida Saturday because of an ankle injury.

“[My ankle is] feeling a lot better,” Kurz said. “I think it’s going to be 100 percent Thursday.”

Kurz, who averages 8.5 rebounds per game, gathered in just one in 19 minutes in the loss to the Bulls.

“We need him healthy to be at our best,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “He’s gotten better each day since Saturday.”

The Irish (18-5, 6-4 Big East) beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome 103-91 Jan. 30, ending a three-game road losing streak. They fell back to their old road woes with the loss Saturday.

“We just didn’t play tough,” Notre Dame point guard Tory Jackson said of the South Florida game. “Things could have gone better, but they got the momentum and we waited too long to fight back.”

Irish forward Zach Hillesland said Notre Dame can re-create its effort against the Orange versus DePaul tonight.

“It’s just a matter of coming out with a lot of energy and focus,” Hillesland said.

The Blue Demons (13-11, 4-6 Big East) are led by sophomore forward Wilson Chandler, who averages 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and senior guard Sammy Mejia, who puts up 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds.

“We’re playing a really talented team in DePaul,” Brey said. “They have arguably the best talent in the league.”

The Irish are ranked No. 21 in the Coaches poll, but they dropped out of the AP poll after Saturday’s loss. Brey said his team isn’t paying attention to the ranking.

“It’s a non-factor,” he said. “We’re thinking bigger things now and we’re trying to get some consistency.”

After DePaul, Notre Dame returns home for a game against Providence and then travels to Cincinnati. After that, the Blue Demons come to the Joyce Center for a rematch before the Irish host Marquette in their final home game. Notre Dame finishes its season against Rutgers on the road.

The Irish are currently sixth in the Big East, half a game behind Louisville for fifth and one game behind West Virginia for the fourth and final bye in the conference tournament.

“We’ve got six games left,” Brey said. “One thing I talked to the guys about was that, in the criteria for the NCAA Tournament, they look at your last ten games.”