Notre Dame earns trip to New York City with win over DePaul

Published 11:26 pm Monday, March 6, 2006

By By JEFF FISHER / Niles Daily Star
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Fighting Irish were faced with a win and go on or lose and stay home theme for a potential berth in the Big East Tournament against a DePaul team that needed a little more than just a win for their post season survival.
Saturday afternoon, in front of a national television audience and a sold out raucous Joyce Center, Notre Dame junior guard Russell Carter's two free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game gave the Irish a 66-61 victory and clinched a trip to NYC for the league tournament.
The victory is the Irish's sixth post-season berth in Mike Brey's six years at the helm of the Irish.
Carter scored a team high 22 points and grabbed five rebounds, including one with five seconds to go in the game with the Irish clinging to a 64-61 advantage. Carter was also awarded the Wendall Smith Award, which is given to the most valuable player in the DePaul-Notre Dame series, voted on by sportswriters in attendance.
Carter was one of three Irish players in double figures. Senior tri-captain Chris Quinn, playing in his last home game at Notre Dame, recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 assists, and fellow captain Torin Francis scored 10 points and hauled down eight boards.
The Blue Demons (12-15, 5-11 Big East), took their largest lead of the game with three points early in the first half on a Wilson Chandler blocked shot that resulted in a lay up by Sammy Mejia to lead 5-2.
The first half featured four ties and the lead changed hands four times as well.
The Irish's Kyle McAlarney's 3-pointer in conjunction with an Irish 7-0 run gave the hosts a 14-7 lead. DePaul's Wilson Chandler's back-to-back baskets cut the Irish lead to 19-18, followed by a Sammy Mejia trey that gave the Blue Demons a 21-19 advantage.
Chris Quinn's running lay up tied the contest up at 21-21, but a three-pointer from Rob Kurz and a tip-in at the buzzer by Russell Carter gave the Irish a 35-27 lead at the break.
DePaul's Sammy Mejia led all scorers with 16 points at half time.
Wilson Chandler, playing with four fouls, brought DePaul within two points (59-57) in the second half, but a 3-pointer from Notre Dame's Colin Falls with 51.8 seconds remaining made it 62-57 Irish.
Falls added two free throws with 15 seconds remaining after a basket by DePaul's Marlon Brumfield. That was followed by Carter's two free throws. Draelon Burn's then missed a 3-pointer, which rattled in and out that could have sent the game into overtime.
Mejia took game-high honors with 23 points for DePaul.
The game also marked the return of Benton Harbor High School standout Wilson Chandler. Chandler earned Michigan Mr. Basketball honors after averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds his senior year for the Tigers.
He is currently averaging 11.3 points per game and 7.4 boards for DePaul and will probably earn a spot on the Big East all-rookie squad.
Chandler was held to 10 points and six rebounds.
For the first time in Big East play the Irish won a game by fewer than five points.
The Irish (15-12, 6-10 Big East), come into the Big East tourney as the twelve seed and will face the fifth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas beginning Wednesday. The Irish lost to the Hoyas earlier in the season 85-82 in double overtime.