CHICAGO — Matt Farrell has been spreading the good news about Notre Dame teammate T.J. Gibbs.
Gibbs’ play backed up Farrell’s words on Saturday.
Gibbs scored 21 points to lead the No. 14 Irish to a 72-58 victory over DePaul in the season opener for both teams.
“It’s been a lot of fun to play with him,” Farrell said about Gibbs, who shot 7 of 11 from the field. “I’ve been telling people that since the summer, that he’s going to have a big year. Strong driver, shoots it way better than people think, and you saw that tonight. He’s confident. He’s another Jersey guy, so it’s a lot of fun to play with him.”
Bonzie Colson had 18 points and 13 rebounds and Farrell added 15 points for the Irish, who have Final Four aspirations after going 26-10 overall and 12-6 in the ACC last season.
Eli Cain and Tre’Darius McCallum scored 14 points apiece for DePaul, which went 9-23 last season. Max Strus added 11 points and Devin Gage had 10.
The Irish — who were picked by the media to finish third behind No. 1 Duke and No. 9 North Carolina in the ACC — made 9 of 12 3-point attempts in the second half.
“We’ve been really working on that all season, all offseason,” Gibbs said.
Notre Dame hit 12 of 27 from beyond the arc overall and shot 47.2 percent from the field to DePaul’s 33.8 percent.
Colson, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, posted his 24th career double-double after recording 19 last season to lead the conference. He led Notre Dame in scoring at 17.8 points per game and rebounding at 10.1 last season to earn third-team AP All-America honors.
Gibbs’ previous career-high was 13 points.
“He’s coming into his own, scoring, talking, and he’s become a little bit of a leader too, talking more on both sides of the floor,” Colson said. “When he shoots the ball, he’s in attack mode. That’s what we need out of him.”
DePaul pulled within 31-30 before Strus missed on an alley-oop attempt and Notre Dame responded with 3s by Gibbs and Farrell to extend the lead to seven.
The Irish began the second half by making 8 of 10 from beyond the arc to build a 13-point lead.
“We came out aggressive, but we slacked in the second half,” Gage said. “I feel like we have a great team this year, and we’ll continue to progress.”
With a lively crowd on hand, DePaul unveiled its new home court at the 10,000-seat, $193 million Wintrust Arena on the city’s Near South Side.
The Blue Demons hope to elevate their program with the new arena seven miles from campus. DePaul’s previous home court at AllState Arena was 14 miles away in the suburb of Rosemont. The Blue Demons played in Rosemont for 37 years.
DePaul is 41-171 in the Big East since joining the conference in 2005-06 and last made the NCAA Tournament in 2004.
“The student section was packed,” McCallum said. “The fans were behind us the whole time. I like it a lot better.”
The attendance was 10,194.
“This is a beautiful facility,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “It’s probably 20 years overdue.
“This is what DePaul needs. When they reached out a couple years ago, even though you’re not supposed to open on the road and you’re not supposed to challenge yourself, I said, ‘It’s bigger than that.’ DePaul and Notre Dame go way back, and we should come over here.”
Notre Dame has won 10 straight against DePaul.
Notre Dame hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Monday.
DePaul hosts Delaware State on Monday.