NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Overtime - again. For the second time in as many games and for the second time in as many matchups against DePaul this season, Notre Dame found itself back in overtime Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Unlike Saturday's 104-101 win over Louisville, Wednesday's game did not go five overtimes. Like their game 11 days ago at DePaul (10-14, 1-10 Big East), the Irish (20-5, 8-4) were able to prevail in OT - this time by an 82-78 final score. It was a "here we go again" night for Irish head coach Mike Brey and his team.
"I'm very proud of my team," Brey said afterward. "Given everything they did Saturday night, to be on the ropes again and dig out another one. It's really as big a win as Saturday when you can turn around and dig one out."
Saturday's hero, Jerian Grant, finished with a team-high 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting for the Irish, including six of his team's 16 points in the overtime period. Grant scored Notre Dame's last 12 points in regulation in the win over Louisville, but his jumper at the end of regulation missed against DePaul as the two teams went to overtime tied 66-66.
"That wasn't a great one," Brey said of Grant's shot. "He pulled-up his dribble and he forced it. He thought he got fouled, but they're not gonna reward a bad basketball play."
"I thought he could have shot it quicker," Brey continued. "He kind of picked-up his dribble and shot faked. Now, he is the guy that made three unbelievably crazy shots the other night, so I guess I gotta live with a guy pump-faking four times and shooting over a 6'8 guy."
After the longest game in program history Saturday night, Brey was understandably weary of his team's physical ability heading into the game. Garrick Sherman, Zach Auguste and Cameron Biedscheid all checked into the game together at the first media timeout. It was one of three times Brey subbed three players at a time in the game's first 13 minutes.
"It's February - it's now keeping guys fresh and trying not to get anybody hurt," Brey commented. "The worst thing is to get a guy hurt in practice right now. Tomorrow (Thursday) will be more of a mental day and get some rest. Friday we may be on the practice floor 45 minutes and we might not have any contact."
Brey's deep rotation saw eight players get at least 10 minutes of playing time. The Notre Dame bench, which included just Biedscheid, Auguste and Sherman, outscored DePaul's 15-2 in the first half and 20-7 for the game.
The game was tied five times in the first six and a half minutes. The Fighting Irish took an 18-16 lead on a Biedscheid dunk. Cleveland Melvin, who ended with a game-high 23 points, scored nine of DePaul's first 14 points, but did not score again over the last 13:46 of the first half.
It looked like the Fighting Irish might run away from the Blue Demons in the first half. They used an 8-0 run to take a 32-23 lead and used a 17-6 scoring advantage in a six-minute span to help take a 43-32 lead into the locker room at halftime after pushing their advantage all the way to 14 points.
The 43-point first half is Notre Dame's second-best opening 20 minutes of a game this season. They scored 44 in the first half of their Jan. 5 93-74 home win over Seton Hall.
Brey watched his team's frustration swell after an 11-1 run, capped by a Jamee Crockett three-pointer, to go up 58-57 with 8:11 to play. The Blue Demons did not trail for nearly five minutes after that.
"I thought we got composed before the overtime pretty good," Brey said of his team's mental state. "And quite frankly, like Saturday, we were probably pretty fortunate we were in overtime again, so we'll take that."
Atkins hit a three from the right wing to put the Irish on top 66-63 before DePaul tied the game with 1:20 remaining in regulation. Neither team scored again until Atkins started the scoring 27 seconds into overtime. The Irish never trailed in the game's final five minutes.
Eight players fouled out of Saturday's game, but just one, Crockett, was disqualified on Wednesday. The forward fouled out with 6.4 seconds to play after sending Pat Connaughton to the line. Connaughton hit both foul shots before DePaul hit a meaningless layup as the Irish escaped with the win.
Notre Dame's ninth straight win over DePaul, and third win in four overtime games this season, gives Brey and his program a seventh consecutive season of at least 20 wins.
"I'm really proud of that," Brey said of reaching the 20-win mark yet again. "For our program that's really a sign of our consistency."
"I think it's been kind of machine-like consistency, quite frankly," Brey continued. "Us doing our job over here. Certainly we aspire to do more things in March, but man you've gotta grind this thing in January and February especially and I really like how we've done that."
The win was the 141st in Big East play for Brey. Only Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (410), former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun (312) and former Georgetown head coach John Thompson (231) have won more Big East games.
Jack Cooley notched his 17th double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Atkins finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly watched the game at courtside in the seats directly across from the Irish bench.
The Irish are at Providence for a Noon ET tip-off on Saturday and then head to Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. ET game Monday night.