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No. 14 Notre Dame spoils DePaul’s new arena debut
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was pleased with how Saturday’s opening win at DePaul played out, but he wasn’t necessarily surprised. He had seen it before.
Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and No. 14 Notre Dame caught fire in the second half to put away DePaul 72-58 on Saturday in the first game at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
The Fighting Irish hit 12 3-pointers, including four during a two-minute stretch midway through the second half that helped Notre Dame (1-0) start to pull away from the Blue Demons (0-1).
Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs scored a career-high 21 points and Matt Farrell added 15 points for the Irish, who improved to 18-0 in season openers under Brey.
DePaul, in its first game in its new arena, hung tough into the second half. Tre’Darius McCallum and Eli Cain each scored 14 points to lead the Blue Demons.
DePaul was down just 31-30 early in the second half before the Fighting Irish got going.
Notre Dame hit eight 3-pointers in a row in the second half to finally separate from DePaul. Gibbs hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Rex Pflueger and Farrell also knocked down deep balls to push the lead to 60-47 with 7:46 left.
The Blue Demons had no answer.
“There’s a mental toughness and a belief about this nucleus that they’re going to find a way to do it,” Brey said. “I love the fact that even though we weren’t making shots, we didn’t let it affect our defense. Other teams I have had haven’t done that.
“We kept digging in and guarding. And then eventually we got a heck of a run. I didn’t know we hit eight 3s in a row.”
The Irish scored the game’s first five points and led for almost all of the first half, but never by much. A layup by Cain tied the score at 22-22 with 4:22 left before halftime.
Gibbs hit a late 3-pointer and Notre Dame took a 29-25 lead into halftime.
Junior guard Max Strus finished with 11 points and sophomore guard Devin Gage added 10 point for DePaul, which committed only four turnovers but didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the hot-shooting Irish in the second half.
Notre Dame shot 66 percent from the floor in the second half and fed off the poise of its senior core for an opening win.
“I think an older group that has won together kind of showed up the last 10 minutes of the game,” Brey said. “Something to build on for us.”
The loss spoils the Blue Demons’ debut in their new arena, but both Brey and DePaul coach Dave Leitao believe better times are ahead for the program.
“I was hoping against hope that, for everybody, that put this day together, we’d give everybody an opportunity to see us win,” Leitao said.
“Great atmosphere,” Brey added. “This is what DePaul needs.”
NOTES: Saturday’s game was the first at Wintrust, DePaul’s new home arena after 37 years at Rosemont Arena. ... The Fighting Irish debuted their new Golden Dome uniforms. ... Five of Notre Dame’s first seven games are away from home, a stretch highlighted by a showdown at No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 30. ... Saturday’s game was the 105th meeting between Notre Dame and DePaul. ... Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is 18 wins away from reaching 500 career wins.