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Notre Dame edges scrappy DePaul in overtime

(MCT) — SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The last-gasp shot from Jerian Grant, a regulation superhero four days earlier, fell woefully short of hitting any particle of iron. A scramble ensued as the clock sped down and the loose ball was chased into the corner, but the horn blew with neither Notre Dame nor DePaul ahead of the other.

The Irish shuffled back to the bench blankly. It was overtime. Again. The sixth in the last two games. There were two distinct sensations in the huddle: One was been-here-before. One was let’s-get-over-with-before-tomorrow.

“I was pissed,” Irish guard Eric Atkins said. “I didn’t feel like playing anymore.”

On Wednesday, matters went only slightly past the allotted time, with No. 21 Notre Dame grinding out an 82-78 overtime victory over DePaul at Purcell Pavilion, a fourth victory in five games that was necessary to reinforce what the Irish took from the epic, five-overtime triumph over Louisville last weekend.

For the Demons (10-14, 1-10 Big East), it reinforced bad trends. DePaul charged back from an 11-point second-half deficit but two costly overtime turnovers undid 58.8 percent shooting after halftime. And a ninth straight loss this season was a 40th straight defeat to ranked teams.

“This is a big rivalry game and we always come out to fight and compete,” Demons guard Brandon Young said. “Notre Dame is an experienced team in overtime. They just know how to pull it out.”

The Irish (20-5, 8-4) might prefer easier paths to a school-record seventh straight 20-win season.

The last three victories all required overtime, and this time a lead as large as 14 points vanished thanks to 39.1 percent shooting and 10 turnovers after halftime. Notre Dame actually went the final 31/2 minutes of regulation without a point.

But free basketball is familiar terrain for the Irish, and a three-point play from Grant with 69 seconds left in the extra period opened a 77-73 lead that proved comfort enough.

“Coming off five overtimes, we could have been tired and said we’ll let one get away,” said Grant, who finished with 21 points. “For this team to come back and go to another overtime and pull it out, we’re definitely mentally tough.”

And not once again searching for resolve they found against Louisville.

“It would have been devastating, really, to drop this after we had such a big one,” said Irish center Jack Cooley, who posted 16 points and 10 rebounds. “We have to follow up big wins with another one.”

Notre Dame, in shambles in January, is a half-game out of first place in the Big East. There are multiple big wins left to get.

No one is deluded about how easy that will be, not after the last 12 days.

“We’re 8-4 with a very fine line,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I think that’s how we’ll be the rest of the way. That’s who we are.”

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