Notre Dame on survive and advance mode in Big East play
Posted: 02/13/2013 at 11:28 pm
By: Rachel Terlep
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Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant makes a layup in overtime during an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. Grant was fouled and made the free throw, sealing Notre Dame's 82-78 victory. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
The Notre Dame point guard was coming off a 60-minute performance that stretched five overtimes in a slugfest against Louisville on Saturday, Feb. 9.
And now the Irish were back in overtime again, having ended regulation tied 66-66 with DePaul Wednesday night, Feb. 13.
“I didn’t feel like playing anymore,” the 6-foot-2 junior admitted after the No. 21 Irish had claimed a 82-78 victory.
After a sluggish start, hockey-like mass substitutions and a promising final minute of the first half, true fatigue began to set in midway through the second half. The Irish slowly lost grip on their 11-point lead over the visiting Blue Demons. By the 7:36 mark, DePaul had tied the game up and led three times.
Then the Irish embarked on a 5-minute stretch that yielded a single free throw from Jerian Grant. Though Notre Dame was shooting 50 percent from the field and out-rebounded DePaul (10-14, 1-10 Big East) 44-25, it needed an extra period to secure the win.
Head coach Mike Brey had no choice but to embrace it.
“We’ve been here before, let’s do it again,” Brey said he told his team. “It’s not like ‘Oh my God we had a 12 point lead!’ (It’s) ‘Fellas, we’ve been here before. Let’s have fun with it, what the heck.’ Then I had my fingers crossed behind my back.”
Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4 Big East) took a quick lead off an Atkins jumper early in overtime and never trailed again. The exhausted Irish dragged out another league win.
“Given everything they had to do Saturday night, to be on the ropes again and turn around and dig out another one, that’s really as big a win as Saturday’s,” Brey said. “When you can turn around and dig one out when it doesn’t look good at times.”
As important as it was for Notre Dame to secure its school-record seventh straight 20-season win, sending a message that it wouldn’t let its sixth overtime in two games wear the team down was just as crucial.
“Just coming off that (Louisville) game, we could’ve been tired and just said we’ll let one get away,” Grant said. “For this team to come back and go into another overtime and pull it out is definitely mentally tough.”
And Brey doesn’t expect things to get any easier. He said once the team enters Big East tournament play, the rule of thumb becomes “survive and advance.”
“We’re 8-4 (in the Big East) on a very fine line,” he said. “And I think that’s just the way we’ll have to live right now.” Grant led the Irish with 21 points and nine assists, while Jack Cooley chipped in his 30th career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Brandon Young led the Blue Demons with 20 points.