Colin Falls has thought of little else beside beating DePaul (16-12, 7-7) ever since the Blue Demons edged Notre Dame by a single point twelve days ago in Chicago. And while the big picture still needs to be focused on, after all, the Irish are not quite yet garnering national attention, only re-entering the Top 25 this week, Falls seemed to relish carrying out his plan of vengeance over a seemingly hapless DePaul squad tonight.
Of course, it helps when you have freshmen like Tory Jackson.
Coming into tonight’s game at the Joyce Center, where the Irish are now a remarkable 17-0 this season, most prognosticators assumed that Notre Dame would have to at least finish 2-1 in their final three match-ups to receive a gimme Tournament bid. The 24 point clobbering tonight of rival DePaul effectively silences any remaining doubts and makes even a first round bye in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square gardens in two weeks a very real possibility.
The Fighting Irish seemed to have the game in a veritable vice-grip almost immediately from the opening tip-off when Colin Falls hit his first three of the night nine seconds in. That proved to be about as close as DePaul would get as Falls and company would go on to close the first half 40-22 on a bookending Falls 3 from somewhere in Mishawaka.
Falls would go on to finish with a team high of 19 points, all in the first half, and be 4-for-8 beyond the arc–this on a night when no fewer than five Irish players would finish in double digits.
Russell Carter demonstrated that he has finally overcome the nagging hip flexer injury that has hobbled him over the past few weeks if at no other time during the night than when he deftly dunked after an impressive steal and break away run midway through the first. He would finish the night with 13 points, much to the collective relief of the Irish Nation.
The second half was the Tory Jackson show as the 5’10” 185 pound freshman showed fits of absolute brilliance whether driving to the net and making unbelievable baskets with hesitation moves that seemed to defy physics, or by stunning the capacity crowd with oh-so-sweet no look passes.
Jackson finished with 13 points, 9 defensive rebounds, and a standing ovation.
Indeed, the Irish 2-3 defense as a whole seemed solid, out rebounding the Blue Demons 25-6 on their own glass and holding DePaul’s Wilson Chandler, who had a career game against Notre Dame just two weeks ago, to just 9 points. Sammy Mejia led DePaul with 17 points.
With just two games remaining; this Saturday against a decidedly vulnerable #16 Marquette and closing at Rutgers the Irish seem poised, irregardless of outcome, to get an invite to dance in mid March. The Irish, with explosive veterans like Falls and Carter peaking and game changing freshmen like Jackson and Luke Harangody dominating, could surprise opponents and pundits alike making for a more beautiful spring than normal on campus.