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Men’s Basketball: Irish top DePaul for third straight win

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All five starters scored in double figures as Notre Dame earned its third win in six days with a 78-54 victory over DePaul Tuesday at the Joyce Center.

“We had so many guys play really well,” Irish junior forward Rob Kurz said. “I think it was definitely one of our better efforts.”

With the win, Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5 Big East) avenged its 67-66 last second loss to the Blue Demons Feb. 8, a loss senior guard Colin Falls called “the worst of [his] career.”

“We were pissed,” said Falls, who scored 19 points Tuesday. “I don’t know how else to say it. That was our motivation.”

The win was Notre Dame’s school-record 17th straight at home this season. A win against Marquette Saturday at the Joyce Center would close out an undefeated home campaign for the Irish.

“This group deserves that,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “Hopefully we can get one more on Saturday.”

DePaul shot just 34 percent for the game, including 2-for-19 from behind the three-point arc.

“We haven’t played that good on defense in a while,” Kurz said.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, shot 49 percent from the field and hit half of its 18 three-pointers.

The Irish jumped out to an early 8-1 lead, keyed by five points from Falls. The Blue Demons’ first field goal came on a runner by Sammy Mejia with 16:40 left in the first half.

DePaul (16-12, 7-7) climbed back into the game, getting to within two at 8-6, but a 10-2 Irish run, including six points from senior guard Russell Carter, stretched Notre Dame’s lead to 18-8 with 13:09 left in the game.

The Irish continued to build their lead, holding the Blue Demons scoreless for a six-minute period and going up 27-12 with six minutes remaining in the half.

Notre Dame went on a four-minute scoreless streak of its own, but DePaul could only cut the lead by two points during the stretch.

“We defended well,” Falls said. “Our defense won us this ball game.”

A four-point play by Falls broke the funk and gave the Irish a 40-22 lead at the half.

After the half, DePaul switched to a full court press and cut the lead to 12 at 45-33, but an 11-2 Notre Dame run keyed by six points from freshman point guard Tory Jackson put the Irish up by 21 with 11 minutes to play. From there, Notre Dame cruised to an easy victory.

Jackson scored 13 points, 11 of them in second half, and added six assists. He also led the team in rebounds with nine.

“He attacked and drove and got everybody confident again,” Brey said.

Tuesday’s victory moved the Irish into a tie with Marquette for fourth place in the conference. The top four teams get a bye in the Big East tournament.

The Irish and Marquette Golden Eagles got some help from Providence, who knocked off West Virginia 64-61 Tuesday night. The Mountaineers had been tied with Notre Dame and Marquette for fourth place.

Syracuse is currently a half game back at 8-5 in the Big East and plays the Friars Saturday.