ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - Notre Dame was more eager than rusty following a nine-day layoff. Coming off an impressive win at Pittsburgh in their previous outing, the Fighting Irish couldn't wait to get back on the court and it showed against struggling DePaul.
``They all count the same. You got to treat them the same and we did a good job of doing that,' Irish guard Ben Hansbrough said after scoring 24 to lead an 83-58 win Thursday night.
``One of the things we wanted to do was come out and set the tone.'
Hansbrough did that, leading the ninth-ranked Irish on big runs at the end of the first half and beginning of the second as Notre Dame (18-4, 7-3) coasted to its fourth straight victory.
``I thought the layoff helped us. We got energized,' coach Mike Brey said.
Brey's planning also helped. He brought the Irish to the Chicago area on Tuesday to beat the worst of a winter blizzard.
``We just wanted to get over here,' he said of the 3 1/2-hour trip that usually takes a little more than two hours.
And despite two nights in a hotel waiting for one game, the Irish benefited. They were able to practice at All-State Arena on both Wednesday and before the game Thursday.
``By 6:15 when the bus left today we were all a little whacky,' Brey said. ``It will be good to get back to South Bend.'
Scott Martin added 15 points and Tim Abromaitis chipped in 13 for Notre Dame. Freshman Brandon Young paced DePaul (6-15, 0-9) with 16.
DePaul lost its 22nd straight Big East game, counting one in the league tournament. The Blue Demons (6-15, 0-9) have also dropped 25 straight to ranked opponents.
Blue Demons' leading scorer Cleveland Melvin, another freshman averaging 14.5, managed only four.
Hansbrough, who was 5 for 8 on 3-pointers, hit a pair early in the second half as the Irish expanded a 37-24 halftime lead quickly into a 48-29 lead with less than four minutes in the half. At the end of the 15-5 run, Notre Dame was up 52-29 as the talent disparity between the two old rivals became even more apparent.
Hansbrough, who sparked the win over Pitt with 19 points, had a flying highlight-reel, one-handed dunk after driving through the lane and finished the opening half with 11 points. He was the catalyst in the Irish's closing run that gave them a 37-24 halftime lead.
``He (Hansbrough) is one of the elite guards in the Big East and he demonstrated that,' DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.
``With five minutes to go in the half we had the wheels come off physically and mentally. ... We got down double digits at the half and after getting off to a slow start in the second half, they're in total control.'
After Hansbrough had his shot blocked from behind, he came up with the ball and fed Carleton Scott for a dunk. Moments later Hansbrough hit a free throw and then found Eric Atkins, who was open for a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Irish a 30-20 lead late in the half.
Tyrone Nash then tracked down a loose ball and sank a 3-pointer just as the shot clock was expiring to put the Irish up 33-22.
Then it was Hansbrough hitting a 3-pointer to cap the 14-2 spurt and the Irish were rolling at 36-22 with just over two minutes remaining.
Hansbrough momentarily hit his leg when he went down to retrieve a ball early in the second half, but shook that off quickly and hit a 3-pointer, putting the Irish up 40-24.
Abromaitis, in a scoring slump with only eight points in the previous two games, hit a 3-pointer and Scott, who missed two early dunks in the second half, had two free throws to make it 45-29. Hansbrough then found the range again from beyond the 3-point line and the Irish were sailing by 18 before four minutes had expired in the second half.
DePaul, one of the nation's poorest 3-point shooting teams (27 percent entering the game), made 3 of 12 in the first half and finished the game 9-for-25. The Blue Demons shot just 35 percent overall.
``We're not getting any wins right now,' DePaul's Young said of the team's mounting frustration. ``It's tough. It's going to get better, though.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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