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January 23, 2010

Irish dump Demons, end two-game skid

NOTRE DAME, Ind.-Twenty-two assists and two turnovers.

Notre Dame (15-5, 4-3) got back to playing Notre Dame basketball to claim an 87-77 victory over DePaul (8-11, 1-6) Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

"We were good offensively and we know who we are offensively," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "When you run and attack, you're group is in a go-for-it mode."

Tim Abromaitis scored 30 points and Luke Harangody added 24 as the Irish shot to a 7-0 lead to start the game, led by double digits throughout much of the final 33 minutes and never were in serious danger of losing their third straight after falling to Cincinnati and Syracuse in the two previous contests.

"In the Big East, you have to take care of the ball," said Ben Hansbrough, who finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, tying Tory Jackson for the team-high in dishes. "It's just a matter of finding the open person and making plays. Tory did a great job for us. He ran our team."

While Will Walker's 35-point effort was worthy of consideration for the Wendell Smith Award as the game's top performer, Abromaitis certainly was a deserving recipient. One point shy of his career high and five days removed from a 26-point effort against Syracuse, Abromaitis made 9-of-16 shots (5-of-9 from three-point range) and 7-of-8 from the line to go along with six rebounds, three assists and a steal.

"It's beautiful to watch," said Brey of Abromaitis' performance. "You've got a real confident, comfortable guy. That he's been able to do it over and over again, I'm very impressed with that.

"He's a real confident guy right now and with his development, it gives you a shot. When (Scott) Martin went down (with a knee injury), we needed (Abromaitis) to be great, not good. I think he's been great, so we're in the mix."

Tyrone Nash, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, scored two baskets in the first 45 seconds, and the Irish never looked back. By the 15:58 mark, Notre Dame had a 10-point lead. It reached 13 on a fast-break dish from Hansbrough to Jackson with 8:33 remaining and settled in at 37-27 at halftime as the Irish limited DePaul to 36.4 percent shooting.

DePaul would cut Notre Dame's lead to seven on five separate occasions in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and would eventually pull to within six with 1:10 remaining. But the Irish were never seriously threatened as they claimed their first victory in 14 days.

"We always talk about holding the other guys down, but when you give up 87, you have to score 88, and that's not (who we are)," said interim head coach Tracy Webster, who fell to 1-3 since taking over for the fired Jerry Wainwright.

"Defense is supposed to be our deal, but for whatever reason, we were not good defensively."

The Irish weren't particularly good defensively in the second half either, allowing 50 points and 54.3 percent shooting. But while Walker was lighting them up, the Irish were scoring at will as well. DePaul's bench out-scored Notre Dame's bench, 17-0, which didn't seem to concern Brey one bit.

"The most overrated stat in the history of basketball," Brey said. "If I've got three guys who can get 30, they're starting and playing 38 minutes. Real simple.

"Now, there are nights Jon Peoples and Carlton (Scott) will score for us. But I don't want that pressure on them. I want them coming in and energizing us and being good with the ball. Certainly if they have open looks, take it. But the guys who can score start, and that's one of the reasons they start."

It was just another day at the office for Harangody, who had a game-high 11 rebounds to go with his 24 points.

"Twenty-two assists to two turnovers is an amazing stat," Harangody said. "When you play Notre Dame, you have to realize that we're going to take care of the ball, have good possessions and get good shots every time."

Even for Abromaitis, standout performances are becoming commonplace.

"I think one of my strengths is my versatility," said Abromaitis, who is averaging 18.4 points per game in Big East play. "When I'm able to score inside and outside, it makes it hard for some teams to match up with me.

"But at the same time, a lot of it is just moving off the ball. I get great feeds from teammates who are able to penetrate. Ben and Tory have the best vision of anyone I've ever played with. It really makes it easy for me no matter where I am on the court."

Notre Dame added another chapter to the storied history of the series, which reached 100 games Saturday.

"To look at 100 games, that's staggering," Brey said. "It's special. It's neat to be part of it. It will be neat to look back on it and say, 'I was part of the 100th game of that series.'"

All proceeds from the Notre Dame-DePaul game and the women's game against West Virginia Sunday will be donated by the University to benefit relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti following its devastating earthquake on Jan. 12.


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