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December 31, 2008

Basketball Preview: No. 7 Notre Dame @ DePaul

No. 7-ranked Notre Dame (9-2) opens Big East play Wednesday night at All-State Arena in Rosemont, Ill., when the Irish take on rival DePaul (8-5) for the 99th time in the storied history of the series.

The Irish have won three straight against the Blue Demons, including nine- and seven-point victories a year ago. But Notre Dame traditionally has struggled against DePaul on the road. The Irish are just 3-11 versus the Blue Demons in All-State Arena, formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon.

Notre Dame enters the game on a three-game winning streak since falling to Ohio State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis a few weeks ago. DePaul, under fourth-year head coach Jerry Wainwright, has been streaky this season. The Blue Demons won their first four and dropped their next four before winning four of their last five.

They've lost at Cal, at Northwestern by 27, to Morgan State at home, by 18 to UCLA, and to Creighton. DePaul has notched victories against Albany, Illinois-Chicago, Detroit, Indiana State, Liberty, Southern University, St. Louis and Alcorn State.

The Blue Demons are led by 6-foot-5 sophomore Dar Tucker, who is averaging 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He has nailed 30-of-94 three-point attempts. Tucker hit 6-of-9 three-pointers in a losing cause against the Irish at All-State Arena last season.

Six-foot-10 sophomore Mac Koshwal is averaging 13.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting 59.6 percent from the field. Six-foot junior Will Walker is DePaul's third double-digit scorer at 10.7 per game.

Notre Dame holds a significant edge over the Blue Demons in the assist-to-turnover category. The Irish are averaging 19.7 assists per game while turning it over just 9.3 times per contest. The Blue Demons are averaging 11.3 assists per game while turning it over at a 12.3 clip.

Irish junior Luke Harangody, who missed two games due to pneumonia, appears back on track as the Irish head into Big East play. He's scored at least 20 points in the last four games and enters the DePaul clash with a 22.7 scoring average while snagging 12.0 rebounds per game.

Senior Kyle McAlarney surpassed the 1,000-point mark against Savannah State and is averaging 17.2 points per game. He has made 49 three-pointers and is shooting 47.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Senior Ryan Ayers is averaging 12.9 points per game for the Irish. Junior Tory Jackson is Notre Dame's fourth double-digit scorer at 11.2 per game. Senior Zach Hillesland is second to Harangody in rebounding with a 6.2 average.

This marks the 10th time in 14 Big East openers that the Irish have begun conference play on the road. In fact, four of Notre Dame's first six Big East games will be away from the Joyce Center, where the Irish have won 43 straight.

Tip-off Wednesday night is at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. Chicago time).

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 6 1/2
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 78, DePaul 69
Season record: 9-2 overall; 2-2 vs. points



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