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The road doesn’t get any easier as DePaul readies for No. 21 Notre Dame

Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins left shoots over DePaul center Derrell RobertsJr. during second half an NCAA college basketball game

Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins, left, shoots over DePaul center Derrell Robertson Jr., during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Rosemont, Ill., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Notre Dame won 79-71 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: February 12, 2013 7:14PM

The numbers don’t speak well for DePaul as it prepares for a rematch against No. 21 Notre Dame in South Bend on Wednesday.

The Blue Demons (10-13, 1-9 Big East) have lost 10 of their last 11 games and eight straight, including a 79-71 overtime loss to the Fighting Irish (19-5, 7-4) in their last meeting Feb. 2 at Allstate Arena.

They have lost 39 straight games to ranked opponents, making Wednesday’s 104th meeting of the rivals all the more daunting.

Defense more than scoring has been the problem of late, with the Demons averaging 73.5 points in their last four games but allowing an average 85.2 points.

``It’s plugging holes in the dike,’’ coach Oliver Purnell said. ``We’ve cut down on turnovers but we have to tighten up [defensively] and rebound better—and be more consistent.

``We do it for stretches, but we have to do it consistently in the meat of the game.’’

Senior Jack Cooley is one of many problems for DePaul, the Irish scoring leader putting up 26 points and 16 rebounds in the first meeting.

``He’s such a big part of their team,’’ junior forward Donnavan Kirk said. ``We have to try to keep him off the glass.

``It’s a challenge for me, but like anybody, when it comes to screens and rolls I have to help and my teammates have to help me.’’

Kirk has shown the most improvement in recent games, including scoring a career high 16 points Saturday in the 89-78 loss at then No. 24-Marquette.

``Donnavan has been playing well the last couple games. We’re looking for him to extend that,’’ Purnell said. ``He’s always blocked shots, so we’re looking for him to rebound more.’’

But a better collective effort is the key, he added.

``It just seems if it’s not one thing it’s another,’’ he said.

While the Irish will be coming off an emotional and thrilling five overtime victory over then No. 11 Louisville, the Demons will be trying to regroup with a still short-handed roster.

Missing again will be junior forward Moses Morgan, who didn’t play Saturday after suffering a fractured cheekbone in the prior 94-71 loss to Villanova.

Purnell also will look for junior Cleveland Melvin to rebound from an off performance against Marquette when the team scoring leader was held to only nine points and four rebounds.

Melvin needs five points to move into 20th on the school’s all-time scoring list and three boards to move into 14th place on the rebounding list.

Junior teammate Brandon Young needs 10 points to move into the program’s top 25 in scoring.

The historic rivals appear likely to remain conference foes for at least one more season while their exits from the Big East are negotiated. Notre Dame is leaving to join the Atlantic Coast Conference and DePaul plans to exit with six other non-football playing members to form a new league.

The Irish had hoped to negotiate their split before the 27-month non-penalty waiting period but haven’t been able to do so in time to complete scheduling for next season.

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