Saturday, November 11, 2017

No. 14 Notre Dame 72, DePaul 58: Gibbs' 21 points spoils Blue Demons' opener at Wintrust Arena

                                                Photo Credit: Jim Young- USA Today Sports

CHICAGO— While the chills of early winter reigned supreme outside, inside witnessed a new era in DePaul basketball as it returned to Chicago for the first time in 37 years as Wintrust Arena opened for the first-ever regular season game as long-time rival No. 14 Notre Dame served as the opposition.

The Irish (1-0) played the role of spoiler as they extended the winning streak in the series to 10 games in a 72-58 win over the Blue Demons (0-1) behind a game-high 21 points from T.J. Gibbs.

Preseason consensus All-American Bonzie Colson looked to be the primary focus from DePaul’s game plan, but Gibbs benefited by going 7-of-11 shooting and 4-of-7 from long range. Despite the effort, Gibbs knows it is game one of a marathon, where no nights can be taken off.

“Short-term, it is a long season, but we are doing it as a team. It is not about the individual, it is all about all of us getting in there to contribute,” Gibbs said.

Matt Farrell’s long-range game was on full display as all 15 points came from three-point range, while Colson recorded his 24th career double-double (18 points and 13 rebounds) despite the added pressure from DePaul’s defense.

Nine of Notre Dame’s 12 three-point makes came in the second half compared to 12 of 15 misses in the first half.

“I think we knew (our shots) would come. We have been working on that all off-season and we trust each other as the shots will come and is about winning,” Gibbs said.

Another part of Notre Dame’s success proved to be its three turnovers committed in the second half, compared to six in the first half, which played an integral part in the win.

“I thought we got a bit of a better ball movement and didn’t force some plays in the second half,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I think (DePaul) got tired and we are a bit older and figured out how to get it done on the road.”

Colson split a pair of free throws to open the scoring in Wintrust Arena as Notre Dame jumped out to an early 5-0 lead on DePaul. The Blue Demons failed to get into an offensive groove early as Marin Maric could not find his footing in the post missing four straight shots with the rest going a combined 1-of-5 in the first 5:38 of the game.

DePaul’s youth showed for the most part as it could not get into a rhythm on offense going 22-of-65 shooting (23 percent), but finished with four players in double figures scoring, highlighted by Tre’Darius McCallum’s 14, on 6-of-9 from the field.

Game Recap:

The assertion of Colson on offense ramped up with an offensive rebound and a quick spin move, which resulted in a floater over McCallum at the 13:53 mark of the first half. The Irish’s lead grew to 17-9 halfway through the opening half, before the Blue Demons struck back with a 7-0 run behind a triple from Max Strus and an alley-oop dunk from McCallum.

Points came few and far between for the remainder of the half as Notre Dame led DePaul 29-25 despite six turnovers and three assists.

Maric converted his first points as a Blue Demon on a conventional three-point play to begin the second half scoring. As DePaul knocked on the door step of Notre Dame at 31-30, Gage blocked Colson’s jumper as the shot clock expired, took to a 2-on-0 breakaway and turned it into a lob and a missed alley oop dunk from Max Strus.

The Irish took advantage of the miscue as their lead grew to 44-35— the largest of the game. The perimeter game came alive as Notre Dame made four of its first six shots in the second half, highlighted by a pair of makes from Farrell and would not look back on its way to a 14-point win in the christening of Wintrust Arena.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Nov. 13 as Notre Dame hosts Mount St. Mary’s at the Purcell Pavilion for a 6 p.m. start, while DePaul returns to Wintrust Arena on Nov. 13 as it hosts Delaware State at 7 p.m.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.