ROSEMONT, Ill. - Time was just about out on the shot clock and all offensive options exhausted when Notre Dame's Ty Nash found himself with the ball on the left side of the floor early in Thursday's game against DePaul.
With no choice but to shoot it, Nash, who operates exclusively around the rim, confidently let fly a 3-pointer. It fell through for the first time in his collegiate career. As it did, Nash, who was 0-for-1 previously in his career, couldn't help but crack a smile.
It was that type of easy night for Nash and No. 9 Notre Dame against an overmatched and overwhelmed Big East opponent.
Senior captain Ben Hansbrough scored a game-high 24 points and fellow senior Scott Martin tied his season high with 15 as the Irish placed four in double figures and rolled to an 83-58 victory at Allstate Arena.
Nash added 10 points and eight rebounds. He also smothered DePaul's leading scorer, Cleveland Melvin, who was a non-factor.
A road win sure was sweet for the Irish senior captain, but so too was his 3-pointer.
“It felt good,” Nash said. “People think when I shoot after practice I'm messing around, but I take that really seriously. I don't get the opportunity to shoot as much as I like to, but I've always had it.
“Three points instead of two, that was so much easier than banging down low.”
Irish coach Mike Brey figured Nash would step into his office sometime Friday and ask for him to run a play or two for him from 3. After the defense that Nash played on Melvin, Brey might consider it. Might.
Melvin, who came into the contest averaging 14.5 points, was held to just four.
“I wanted to take him out of the game early, be physical with him,” Nash said. “I tried to make him guard me. He's going to be a great player in this league.”
Notre Dame never trailed, led by double-digits the final 23:32 and won a second consecutive conference road game for the first time since making its charge toward the NCAA tournament late last season. Winners of four consecutive league games, Notre Dame improves to 18-4 overall and stand alone in second place at 7-3 in the Big East, the lone team in the league with seven wins. DePaul, reeling with another lopsided score, falls to 6-15, 0-9.
“It's another Big East win,” Hansbrough said. “They all count the same, so we've got to treat them the same. We did good job of doing that tonight.”
DePaul had too little offensive options in the second half while Notre Dame had too much Hansbrough. The guard scored 11 points in the first 8:07 to extend Notre Dame's lead over 20 points. The Blue Demons kept trying to press and the Irish kept running their way into easy baskets in a second half that saw them shoot 56 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from 3 and 87.5 percent (14-of-16) from the foul line.
Close conference road games have been the norm for Notre Dame, but Thursday's first half was an exception. It was a tight game early before a late 15-4 run allowed the Irish to lead by as many as 14 in the first half, and 13 at intermission.
“We wanted to come out and throw that first punch, attack that pressure they were throwing at us,” said senior captain Tim Abromaitis.
After not getting a shot in the win over Pittsburgh, Abromaitis, Notre Dame's second-leading scorer, was 1-of-5 in the first half with the only make a point-blank lay-in. He finished with 13 points after a combined eight the last two league games.
Thursday was the first time the Irish had been back on the basketball court in a game since upsetting then-No. 2 Pittsburgh on Jan. 24. Looking like a team that couldn't wait to play again, Notre Dame rolled off the game's first seven points, including a Hansbrough 3, for the early lead and its best road start in league play.
“I thought the layoff helped us,” Brey said. “We got energized. Our energy was great this week in practice. Our energy was really good here.”
“One of the things we wanted to do was come out and set the tone, and leave it all on the court,” Hansbrough said. “We did that.”
Thanks to the winter weather that rolled through the Midwest earlier this week, Notre Dame had been in its Chicago-area hotel for the previous 48 hours before tip-off. Notre Dame had so much juice in its collective tank that the Irish even taped up and practice hard for an hour earlier Thursday. They then had plenty left later in the evening to put this one to bed early. Really early.
“We were ready to get back out there,” Abromaitis said. “I think that showed.”
NOTRE DAME (18-4): Ty Nash 3-6 3-4 10, Tim Abromaitis 4-9 4-4 13, Carleton Scott 3-10 2-2 8, Scott Martin 6-10 2-2 15, Ben Hansbrough 7-12 5-9 24, Eric Atkins 2-3 1-1 6, Top Kopko 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Dragicevich 0-0 0-0 0, Tom Knight 1-1 0-0 2, Joey Brooks 0-0 2-2 2, Jack Cooley 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 27-53 20-26 83.
DEPAUL (6-15): Cleveland Melvin 2-9 0-0 4, Krys Faber 2-7 2-2 6, Jeremiah Kelly 2-6 0-0 6, Brandon Young 5-14 4-4 16, Jimmy Drew 2-6 0-0 6, Michale Bizoukas 1-2 0-0 3, Mario Stula 0-0 0-0 0, Moses Morgan 3-6 2-2 10, Tony Freeland 2-4 3-6 7, Edwind McGhee 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 19-54 11-16 58.
Halftime - Notre Dame 37-24. 3-Point Goals - Notre Dame 9-21 (Hansbrough 5-8, Nash 1-1, Martin 1-2, Atkins 1-2, Abromaitis 1-3, Scott 0-5), DePaul 9-25 (Morgan 2-4, Drew 2-6, Kelly 2-6, Young 2-8, Bizoukas 1-1). Fouled Out - Faber. Rebounds - Notre Dame 35 (Nash 8), DePaul 36 (Melvin 10). Assists - Notre Dame 17 (Nash 4), DePaul 11 (Young 4). Total Fouls - Notre Dame 12, DePaul 22. A - 10,982.