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Irish Pick Up Big BIG EAST Road Win

Feb 2, 2013, 6:21 PM EDT

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On Saturdays this past fall, the Notre Dame football team fought through it difficult schedule unscathed. But week after week, media members talked and wrote about how the Irish did not win with “style points.”

On this, a frigid Saturday in early February, it was the Notre Dame men’s basketball team that gutted out a tough 79-71 overtime road win against DePaul. The Irish led by as many as 12 points early in the second half, but the Blue Demons fought back to tie, and then take the lead, late in the game.

With the game knotted at 70, Notre Dame held for the last shot, but Jerian Grant missed just before the buzzer.

Extra basketball.

Fortunately, point guard Eric Atkins took control in overtime, hitting a three from the corner and making four free throws as the Irish outscored the Blue Demons, 9-1 during the period.

On paper, Notre Dame (18-4 overall, 6-3 BIG EAST) probably should have turned that 12-point second half lead into a 20-point victory against DePaul (10-11, 1-7). But I think it’s become obvious over the years in the BIG EAST, and especially this season, no game is going to come easy.

Louisville looked like a sure-thing #1 seed, and then lost three consecutive conference games. Likewise, Syracuse has now dropped games on back-to-back Saturdays. The BIG EAST race is wide open, and every night is going to be a battle for every team.

Playing less than 15 miles from his high school, Jack Cooley was a dominant force all afternoon. The senior forward scored 26 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, good for his 14th double-double of the season and the 27th of his career.

After the game, head coach Mike Brey spoke to his team’s toughness in finding a way to get the victory.

“That’s a great win for us,” Brey said. “DePaul played so hard and so well. What a great college atmosphere. Their fans, our fans were fabulous.”

With the victory, Brey moved into a tie with former St. John’s head coach Lou Carnesecca for fourth place on the BIG EAST all-time wins list. His conference record is now 139-92 (.602) and he is one of 10 coaches in BIG EAST history with 100 wins.

The Irish will stay in Rosemont, Ill. this evening, before heading to central New York tomorrow. They will take on #6 Syracuse (18-3, 6-2) on Monday night in the Carrier Dome, in a game that’s shaping up to a great one. Watch it live on ESPN at 7 pm ET.

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Welcome to In The Paint, the official blog providing in-depth and exclusive access to the Notre Dame basketball programs. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the Purcell Pavilion, we are committed to bringing you coverage of the Fighting Irish unlike any you can find elsewhere.

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