Perhaps it was a case of simply not matching up well against DePaul. Whatever the case, Notre Dame struggled on Wednesday night before finally pulling away from DePaul to win a Big East Conference game, 82-78, in overtime. It was the second time this season No. 21 Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4 in the Big East) went overtime to beat DePaul (10-54, 1-10). The victory allowed Irish coach Mike Brey to become the first Notre Dame men's basketball coach to post seven consecutive 20-win seasons. "It's been kind of machine-like consistency," Brey said of the streak. "Certainly we aspire to do more things in March (in the NCAA Tournament), but you've gotta grind this thing in January and February." The loss for DePaul was its ninth straight. Jerian Grant led Notre Dame with 21 points and nine assists. His 3-point play with 1:35 to go in overtime was critical as the Irish jumped ahead, 77-73. Jack Cooley had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish, and Eric Atkins added 13 points and nine assists.4 Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 23 points, Brandon Young added 20, Donnavan Kirk had 16 and Jamee Crockett scored 10. "It's tough; we were fighting the entire second half," Melvin said. "It's tough to get over that hump in the overtime." Said Cooley: "You have to expect something like this when you're playing DePaul. We did not play poorly today. They are just such a great scoring team." With DePaul down three and 18.3 seconds left in the overtime, Crockett drove the lane and had the ball stripped. It bounced off him, giving Notre Dame a critical turnover. Cooley responded with a free throw after to ice the victory. "I'm not happy with it," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "I'm encouraged that our guys continue to fight. We had much more of a sense of urgency and energy in the second half than the first." Notre Dame's missed free throws, unforced errors and bad decisions conspired to open the door for DePaul to make its second-half run. "We turned the ball over a little bit," Atkins said of 15 Irish turnovers. "(DePaul) got some easy buckets." A Notre Dame lead that had once stretched to 14 points disintegrated in a hurry. Several Irish turnovers, coupled with a surge by the Blue Demons, changed the complexion of the game. A jump-hook by Crockett with 9:03 left in the second half cut Notre Dame's lead to 57-55. Crockett heated up and hit two 3-pointers and, with just over six minutes left, DePaul had a 63-60 lead. Grant, one of the heroes in Saturday's win over Louisville, stepped forward again Wednesday. His drive, bucket and subsequent free throw evened the score, 63-63 with about four minutes to play. Eric Atkins put the Irish on top, 66-63, with a 3-pointer at the 3:19 mark. Melvin's jumper narrowed the Irish lead to 66-65 at 1:50. In the first half, it took Notre Dame most of the first 10 minutes to find a burst of energy. The Irish jousted back and forth with DePaul until they went up, 12-10. From there, it was a matter of generating some breathing room. Notre Dame dominated the boards, 22-13, en route to a 43-32 advantage at halftime. The Irish shot 55 percent (16-of-29) in the first 20 minutes to start on the right foot. Young was DePaul's leader with 10 points at the break. NOTES: Irish forward Pat Connaughton was a game-time decision Wednesday night. He went out because of an ankle injury in the first half in Saturday's win over Louisville, but came back to play the rest of the game. Connaughton was held out of practice Monday and Tuesday, but was able to start and contribute seven points and four rebounds in 30 minutes Wednesday. ... DePaul came into the visit to Purcell Pavilion having lost its last eight games, including overtime defeats to St. John's and Notre Dame.
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