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Men’s Basketball: Irish survive in overtime

Mike Monaco | Monday, February 4, 2013

Notre Dame surrendered a 12-point second-half lead, endured nine second-half lead changes and forced overtime Satruday against DePaul, but the Irish dominated the extra time in Rosemont, Ill., to win 79-71.

With the game tied 70-70 at the end of regulation, Notre Dame (18-4, 6-3 Big East) outscored the Blue Demons (10-11, 1-7) 9-1 in the extra period behind seven points from Irish junior guard Eric Atkins.

“I’m really proud of our team’s mental toughness,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in a postgame interview with UND.com. “They made the run, and it’s an unbelievable atmosphere – what a great college atmosphere and college game. We had to be mentally tough to kind of get through that, and I’m really proud of our group collectively.”

Atkins opened overtime by drilling a three-pointer. He then knocked down a pair of free throws just over a minute later and buried two more in the overtime period as the Irish rolled. Notre Dame limited DePaul to a single made free throw during the final five minutes.  

“We start with game situations in the very first practice so you’re in everything in practice,” Brey said. “And we talked about that down the stretch. I said ‘Fellas we are in game situations. Nobody does it more than us. And I don’t think anyone’s better at them.’ And I thought our experience in game situations and poise really helped us.”

Senior forward Jack Cooley powered the Irish with a season-high 26 points and 16 rebounds. Atkins played 43 minutes and scored 16 points to go along with five assists and four steals. Fellow junior guard Jerian Grant also logged 43 minutes and chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Cooley, Atkins and Grant scored all of Notre Dame’s final 24 points.

The Irish led 39-30 at halftime and extended their lead to 46-34 a little over three minutes into the second half with a quick five points from Cooley.

But the Blue Demons stormed back over the next seven minutes and took a 56-55 lead with 9:25 remaining in regulation. From there, the teams continued to trade leads.

With 1:24 left to play, DePaul junior forward Cleveland Melvin hit a jumper to give the Blue Demons a 70-68 lead. Fifteen seconds later, Grant connected on two free throws to tie the score at 70. With five seconds remaining, Grant had a look from three-point range to win the game, but he couldn’t get it to go.

“We thought maybe we could get a ball screen for Jerian,” Brey said. “I wish he would have drove that instead of shoot the fadeaway because I think he may have gotten fouled. But still I didn’t think it was a bad look, it rimmed out.”

Coming off its third consecutive win, the Irish turn now to arguably their hardest two-game stretch of the conference season. Notre Dame will square off with No. 6 Syracuse on Monday night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., before hosting No. 12 Louisville on Saturday.

The Orange (18-3, 6-2) suffered their second consecutive loss Saturday when they fell to Pittsburgh 65-55. Prior to that, Syracuse lost to Villanova 75-71 in overtime Jan. 26.

“Well they’re really good, and they’re really good in that building,” Brey said. “The biggest thing we need to do is get some rest over the next two days. … These guys need to get their energy up for Monday night. But that’s going to be a great game, ‘Big Monday’ in the Carrier Dome. This is why you become a college basketball player for a big game. It’ll be a heck of a challenge for us on the road.”

Syracuse will be without senior forward James Southerland, who has missed the past five games after he was declared academically ineligible. Southerland will miss Monday’s tilt with the Irish, and his appeal will be heard later in the week. The 6-foot-8-inch senior is second on the squad in scoring with 13.6 points per game.

The Irish face Syracuse on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu