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Men’s Basketball: Streaking Irish look to continue winning ways

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, February 9, 2012

After defeating West Virginia on Wednesday, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion with hopes of extending their season-long five-game winning streak against a struggling DePaul squad.

During the streak, Notre Dame (16-8, 8-3 Big East) has held each opponent under 60 points while knocking off three ranked conference foes.

“I feel like everybody’s clicking, everybody’s playing really good basketball at this point,” sophomore guard Eric Atkins said. “We’re doing a great job on the defensive side of the ball. It’s making it easy.”

In Wednesday’s 55-51 win, the Irish held the Mountaineers (16-9, 6-6) to just two-for-16 shooting from behind the three-point line, while holding senior guard Darryl Bryant to zero points.

“Even with us winning now, I still feel like people think it’s just a little hot streak that’s going to fall off sometime,” Atkins said. “In our minds, we’re still trying to prove people wrong and keep climbing the Big East.”

Irish coach Mike Brey said he does not think the Irish will have to deal with an overconfidence issue.

“I think because of where we came from, we will never be overconfident,” Brey said. “We were so poor in November and December, I have a hard time feeling us being overconfident.”

DePaul (11-12, 2-9), who currently sits in 15th place in the 16-team Big East, comes into Saturday’s game having lost eight of their previous nine contests.

“[The DePaul game is] very important,” Atkins said. “To get another win in the league is huge for us. It’s a huge game for us and we’re going to approach it like that.”

The Blue Demons employ an up-tempo style of play, drastically contrasting the burn-offense Irish.

“Their style of play worries me,” Brey said. “They are going to press and make it chaotic. There’s no style of play in the league like this.”

DePaul ranks third in the conference with 74.6 points per game, led by sophomore forward Cleveland Melvin. However, the Blue Demons are last in the league in scoring defense.

“They’re going to be a team that tries to speed us up as much as possible,” Atkins said. “We’re going to have some fast break opportunities because of their pressure. We still want to play our pace and make sure they play our pace.”

The Irish have won six straight meetings against the Blue Demons, including last year’s 83-58 drubbing in Chicago.

“[The rivalry] runs deep,” Brey said. “I know we’ve had a pretty good run on DePaul but we don’t take anything for granted.”

Tip-off between Notre Dame and DePaul is slated for noon Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu