Perhaps it was a case of simply not matching up well against DePaul. Whatever the case, Notre Dame struggled Wednesday night before finally pulling ahead to defeat DePaul, 82-78, in overtime in a Big East Conference game. It was the second time this season Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4 in the Big East) went overtime with DePaul (10-14, 1-10). Mike Brey became the first Notre Dame men's basketball coach to post seven consecutive 20-win seasons. The loss for DePaul was its ninth straight. Jerian Grant led Notre Dame with 21 points. His 3-point play with 1:35 to go in overtime was critical as the Irish jumped ahead, 77-73. Jack Cooley added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish, and Eric Atkins had 11 points and nine assists. Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 21 points, Brandon Young added 20, Cleveland Melvin scored 17, Donnavan Kirk had 16 and Jamee Crockett chipped in 10. 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 a foul to ice the victory. Notre Dame's missed free throws, unforced errors and bad decisions conspired to open the door for DePaul to make its second-half run. 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 of Saturday's win over Louisville, stepped forward again. 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, but a jumper by Melvin narrowed the Irish lead to 66-65 at 1:50. It took Notre Dame most of the first 10 minutes of the first half 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 down with 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 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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