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Men’s Basketball: Close call

Andrew Owens | Thursday, February 14, 2013

 

The venue changed, but the storyline didn’t.

Just 11 days after Notre Dame surrendered a double-digit lead in the second half against DePaul, it happened again at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday evening before the Irish eventually prevailed in overtime 82-78.

“I’m thrilled we escaped that one,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “[DePaul's] ball pressure defensively really rattled us and we couldn’t get much in the second half.

“Just like in Chicago, they can score. … We probably stalled offensively and made some bad decisions with the ball. … It would have been deflating to not get this one tonight. There’s no question about it.”

The Blue Demons (10-14, 1-10 Big East) eliminated an 11-point halftime deficit and took a 63-60 lead with 6:45 left but, Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4) had an answer.

Irish junior guard Jerian Grant, the hero of Saturday’s five-overtime thriller against Louisville, made a layup and was fouled before converting the three-point play with 4:40 left. The score tied the game and Notre Dame grabbed the lead on the next possession when junior guard Eric Atkins sunk a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound.

While the lead did not stand – DePaul forced the sixth overtime in five days for Notre Dame – Grant elevated in his game in overtime to lead the Irish to the victory. He scored six of the team’s 14 points in the extra period to finish with 21 points and nine assists.

“I think we’ve always put the ball in his hands at key times,” Brey said. “We need him to shoot it.

“He’s a key guy to go to.”

When the Irish and Blue Demons played at DePaul on Feb. 2, Notre Dame struggled offensively in the second half outside of senior forward Jack Cooley, who scored 26 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the 79-71 overtime victory.

In that game, the Irish led by 12 with 16:29 left before surrendering the advantage and earning the victory in the extra period.

In the first half of Wednesday’s contest, the Irish failed to grab a cushion early in the first half, but relied on their bench to maintain the advantage. When Notre Dame pulled away with a 43-32 halftime lead, much of the lead was due to the play of the reserves, which outscored DePaul’s bench 15-2.

The Irish finished with 20 bench points, as freshman forward Cam Biedscheid and senior center Garrick Sherman scored seven each and freshman forward Zach Auguste contributed with six.

The performance came just four days after the Irish bench willed the squad to victory in five overtimes against Louisville on Saturday. Atkins needed a break late in Wednesday’s game after playing 60 minutes Saturday, and Connaughton is still nursing a leg injury from Saturday.

“Luckily with a veteran group, it’s not like we need a lot of reps [in practice] right now, especially in February,” Brey said. “We have a good feel on how to pace our guys.

“We’re back to needing some rest here, almost for two days.”

With the win, the Irish moved into a two-way tie for fourth place and a coveted double-bye in March’s Big East tournament. It also marked the seventh consecutive season that Notre Dame has won 20 games.

The Irish will travel to Providence for their only regular-season matchup with the Friars on Saturday.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu