Another close game. Another time the Blue Demons didn’t finish.
DePaul lost to Notre Dame 79-71 in overtime Saturday afternoon in a game which featured a DePaul comeback, fluctuating lead changes, and some last-minute drama in front of a berserk Demons crowd. Yet in overtime, DePaul (10-11, 1-7 Big East) went into a funk and the Fighting Irish (18-4, 6-3 Big East) cruised to a win in the extra period.
“We played hard for 40 minutes,” said Demons guard Brandon Young, “but there’s an extra five minutes of overtime.”
The defeat was evident from the overtime jump-ball. DePaul’s Charles McKinney retrieved the tip but threw the ball away. Irish guard Eric Atkins got the steal and sank a three-pointer 30 seconds later. Atkins also made four free throws in the extra session to close out the game.
DePaul was ice cold in overtime. They never took a lead and they shot 0-for-4 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. And DePaul got some chances, too. McKinney bricked two free throws, and Young and Jamee Crockett missed layups in traffic.
To get to overtime, each side made their share of clutch shots. McKinney sank a three-pointer to give the Demons a 61-59 lead with seven minutes remaining. Two minutes later, Grant drove the lane and stuffed home a two-handed jam to give Notre Dame a two-point lead. Atkins made a twisting up-and-under layup to give the Irish a 68-66 lead with 2:17 left, then Cleveland Melvin converted a reverse layup for the tie 11 seconds later.
In the last minute of the second half with the game tied at 70, DePaul squandered its last possession when Young drew all rim on a three-point attempt. A half-minute later, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant missed a step-back three-pointer with one second left.
Jack Cooley was the man of the afternoon, scoring 26 points and snatching 16 rebounds. The hulking forward scored in every way a talented big man could. He got his points primarily at the rim, either by way of assists from teammates who drove to the hoop after drawing over Cooley’s defender, or filling the lane on pick and rolls. Cooley, made 8-of-10 free throws, and impacted the game even without recording stats.
“You have to account for him,” said head coach Oliver Purnell about Cooley, “and you have to have so much help in what happens that when you help on him, other players can get to the offensive glass and they can spot up for three. That happened time and time again, and he does it every game for them.”
DePaul had five scorers in double-figures, and Worrel Clahar finished with nine points. The Demons didn’t shoot particularly well though — 40 percent on the game and 6-of-18 from three-point range. Young was the high scorer with 15 points, Melvin had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Donnavan Kirk had 11 points and seven boards.
McKinney scored 10 points, with seven in the second half. Crockett had 13 points, and eight came within the opening minutes of the game.
Atkins had 16 points for Notre Dame, and Grant scored 10. Zach Auguste scored only six, but he finished a first-half fastbreak alley-oop jam over Kirk that momentarily hushed the crowd.
The announced attendance for the game was 11,354, the highest of the season. Though Notre Dame fans travel well, the majority of the audience supported DePaul.
“Great crowd out there, we just fed off their energy,” said Young.
The Demons’ student section even taunted “Rudy” and made fun of the recent Manti Te’o story with chants of “Where’s your girlfriend?” The section jeered Notre Dame and cheered DePaul with passion for the whole game.
“It was so nice to see our classmates, our fans all over the place,” said Kirk. “It was great energy, a great atmosphere and a great college game. When you’re playing in front of your peers, you really, really want to do well.”
The Demons take another loss, dropping their sixth consecutive game and losing eight of their last nine. While the team suffered embarrassing losses to UConn and Pitt, they fought hard against Seton Hall, Cincinnati, St. John’s (twice) and Notre Dame. All five games were close (within three points) during the last few minutes.
“We’re playing better and better,” said Purnell. “It’s not a consolation. But we got something to build on.”