Notre Dame-DePaul Preview

NOTRE DAME VS. DEPAUL
Where: Allstate Arena (18,500), at Chicago
Rankings & Records: Notre Dame (17-4, 5-3 Big East), DePaul (10-10, 1-6).
Time/TV: Saturday at 2 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
Radio: UND.com, Sirius/XM channel 85.
Last Meeting: This will be the 103rd meeting between the two schools, with Notre Dame holding a 58-44 advantage in the all-time series. The Irish have won the last seven contests against the Blue Demons, including an 84-76 win at home on Feb. 11, 2012.

The Irish are fired up after two straight wins, with a chance for a third Saturday in Chicago against DePaul

Notre Dame Notes
The Fighting Irish are looking for their third straight win in Big East Conference play and remain within striking distance of league leaders Syracuse (6-1), Marquette (6-1) and St. John’s 6-3). Notre Dame enters the game tied with Cincinnati, Louisville and Georgetown for fourth place in the conference standings.

Not only has head coach Mike Brey seen his team overcome the adversity of losing sixth-year senior Scott Martin to a knee injury, the squad has more of a collective bounce in its step with fresh faces making big contributions over the last two games. A bigger starting lineup that now includes senior forward Tom Knight has taken some of the rebounding and defensive pressure off cornerstone Jack Cooley (senior forward). Offensively, the Irish have witnessed freshman reserve Cameron Biedscheid find his groove and Knight emerge as a reliable threat.

A season on the brink of disaster just over a week ago once again looks promising, and the 65-60 victory over Villanova Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion is quote a boost of confidence. The Wildcats had just knocked off Louisville and Syracuse prior to visiting South Bend.

Probable starters:

Jack CooleyNotre Dame’s bruiser down low is averaging 14.5 points and league-best 11 rebounds per game. His .587 shooting percentage ranks third in the Big East.

Eric AtkinsThe junior point guard has been good for 11.6 points and 6.3 assists per game.

Jerian GrantThe junior guard is averaging 12.7 points and 5.6 assists (coming off a 10-assist night against Villanova).

Pat Connaughton In his second year starting, the sophomore guard is posting nine points and 4.5 rebounds on average this season. He’s tied for third on the team with Knight in blocks (10).

Tom KnightHas tallied 27 points in his first two starts of the season and has added a lot of value on the defensive end of the floor as well.

Off The Bench
Freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid came out of a shooting coma and blistered the Wildcats with five 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 18 points. Classmate Zach Auguste (forward) might have passed senior center Garrick Sherman after scoring four points and grabbing a rebound in six minutes of action vs. ‘Nova.

DePaul Overview
Head coach Oliver Purnell’s team has lost five straight by a combined 78 points, skewed by a 93-55 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 26. The Blue Demons are coming off a 79-74 overtime defeat at St. John’s Wednesday.

Cleveland Melvin, a 6-8 junior forward, and junior guard Brandon Young are both averaging 16.7 points per game — a tricky combination of power and aggressive finesse. Young isn’t afraid to fire from deep and he’s made 20 triples this season, as well as 90 free throws on 123 trips to the stripe, which accounts for well over a quarter of DePaul’s attempts from the line.

The Blue Demons are averaging 73.2 points per game (third in the Big East), but have allowed a league-worst 71.4 points per contest.

Outlook
Notre Dame still boasts the top field goal percentage (.496) and 3-point field goal percentage (.399) in the Big East. And with Biedscheid confident again from behind the arc, those numbers should only improve from here on out. DePaul has had trouble defending the 3-point line (opponents have shot .324). This is a game the Irish shouldn’t lose and one they can’t afford to lose with back-to-back dates with Syracuse and Louisville looming.

Morgan’s prediction: Notre Dame 73, DePaul 64

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