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Men’s Basketball: Big Easy

Michael Bryan | Monday, January 25, 2010

The Irish led from start to finish and went back above .500 in Big East play with an 87-77 win over last-place DePaul Saturday.

Notre Dame started the game on fire offensively, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes. Junior forward Tyrone Nash scored on the Irish’s first two possessions, and the Blue Demons were forced to take an early timeout.

“We wanted to come out right away and boost the energy,” junior forward Tim Abromaitis said. “We got three stops right away and really pushed the ball in transition. It helped to get those big stops right away.”

DePaul kept the game from getting out of hand, however, overcoming Notre Dame’s quick start to narrow the lead to 20-15. The Irish built up a 10-point lead into halftime, leading 37-27.

Senior forward Luke Harangody said a strong start helped Notre Dame coming off two straight losses.

“We just had to get out of the gates, and we did that today with the balance and efficiency of this team,” Harangody said.

The Irish maintained their lead throughout the second half, and every time DePaul made a move, Notre Dame responded. A late 3-pointer pulled the Blue Demons within 77-71, but it was too little too late as Notre Dame sealed the win with free throws down the stretch.

Abromaitis led the Irish in scoring with 30 points, and three of his teammates ended the game with double-doubles. Harangody, junior Ben Hansbrough and Nash each accomplished the feat with points and rebounds, and for Nash it was the first of his career.

“My teammates really concentrated on getting me the ball early,” Nash said. “[Harangody] and I went down there and got to work early.”

Nash finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Ball control, a strength for the Irish all season, was key for Notre Dame in the game, as the Irish had 22 assists and just two turnovers. The Irish lead the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio.

“If we are going to be able to compete with the best teams we really have to play together,” Hansbourgh said. “We don’t necessarily have the superior athletes like Syracuse or UConn, but we can make up for that by playing together.”

Hansbrough came just three assists short of a triple-double, filling up the box score with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Guard Will Walker led the Blue Demons and all players with 35 points, shooting 15-of-30 from the field. Forward Devin Hill also tallied 15 points and eight rebounds for DePaul.

“We’ll take any Big East victory we can get. It’s good to get that rid of that two- game losing streak and get out of the losing column,” Nash said.

Notre Dame will face another conference challenge Wednesday, facing No. 4 Villanova on the road.

“We played Syracuse when they were the hottest team in the league, and now we play Villanova and they’re the hottest team in the league,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “That’s a great opportunity for us as a team. We’ve just got to get our reps in at practice tomorrow, get well rested tonight and we’ll be ready.”