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Notre Dame cruises past Purdue for seventh in a row

Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant (top) Purdue forward D.J. Byrd battle for loose ball first half Saturday. | Michael Conroy~AP

Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant (top) and Purdue forward D.J. Byrd battle for a loose ball in the first half Saturday. | Michael Conroy~AP

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:49AM

INDIANAPOLIS — There real-ly wasn’t a moment when Notre Dame’s 81-68 victory Saturday over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic was in doubt.

But there was a time when the Irish were flagging and needed a boost.

With 5:51 left, Rapheal Davis had cut Notre Dame’s lead to nine. The Irish (9-1) had led by 23 points in the second half.

The boost came from Pat Connaughton’s three-pointer from the corner with 5:41 left. Connaughton drilled it after Jerian Grant had split the top of the key and dumped it off to him.

There would be no miracle comebacks.

“It gave us some breathing room,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “It made us feel like we were going to escape.”

There was hardly any doubt about the outcome in the larger scheme.

Notre Dame was sharp defensively, holding Purdue (4-6) to 41 percent shooting (25-for-61). Jack Cooley (18 points), Eric Atkins (17), Connaughton (16) and Garrick Sherman (11) finished in double figures for Notre Dame.

The Irish’s biggest lead came with 10:22 left, when Cooley made a layup for a 56-33 advantage. It capped a 17-2 run that started after halftime.

Cooley said the second-half run was important.

“We were proud of the way we played defense,” he said. “We held them to two points for a long time.”

The victory was necessary to validate what has turned out to be a good start for the Irish, who won their seventh in a row.

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