Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Blue Demons again match Notre Dame in regulation, but just like in Chicago, the Irish prevail in overtime.
I can't figure out why this DePaul (10-14, 1-10) squad has given Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4) such a hard time this season, but they forced the Irish into overtime in Chicago less than two weeks ago and did so again tonight in South Bend. Like before, Mike Brey's squad took care of business when it absolutely needed to (and not a minute sooner). After an atrocious 23-point second half, Notre Dame put up 16 points in the overtime period to finally put the Demons away.
Jerian Grant led the Irish with 21 points, but frankly, he and Atkins were tough to watch in the second half in trying to command the offense. To say they had anything resembling a rhythm would be generous. To be fair, Grant chipped in 6 in OT to lead the Irish when it was finally time to put away the bottom dwellers of the Big East. For his part, Atkins scored 13 with 9 assists to 3 turnovers and 5 rebounds. The box score production looks fine, but they simply did not pass the eye test, especially when DePaul was making its run for much of the second half.
Jack Cooley had a double-double, but he and his frontcourt mates disappeared for long stretches as well. Cooley, Knight, and Sherman spent much of their time hanging around the 3-point arch setting screens without much rolling action or weakside post work. Zach Auguste had 10 productive minutes (6 pts, 3-3, 4 rebs) but turned the ball over a couple times and frustrated his head coach, who gave him a seat for most of the second half. Feel free to question that decision, especially with Tom Knight struggling offensively (2-8 from the field).
To round out the lackluster effort, the student section was sparsely populated by actual students tonight. It's a huge exam week, but the team needs better support than that. But this complain has been levied for years, and it will likely go unnoticed. I can't say I was entirely innocent when I was there, so I won't get too upset. Bengal Bouts also kicked off tonight, so Brey and company can thank everyone involved with event planning as well.
For their part, DePaul was led by an outstanding offensive efforts from Cleveland Melvin (23 points) and Brandon Young (20 pts, 6 assists, 4 rebs). DePaul was also very stingy with the basketball, turning it over only 6 times while the Irish had 14 turnovers.
Free throws and rebounding were the difference, as the Irish shot 21 more free throws and pulled down 18 more rebounds. Yes, you read that right, Notre Dame needed 21 more free throws to defeat the 1-10 DePaul Blue Demons in overtime at home. This simply was not a good follow-up by the Irish after their thriller on Saturday night.
What is there to say? A win is a win, but I'd like to forget this one as quickly as possible. A much better effort is needed at Providence on Saturday afternoon. We've found out too many times this college basketball season, anyone is capable of beating anyone else, but Notre Dame cannot afford to drop one like that if they plan on hanging around the Big East title race.