Notre Dame 79 Duke 77

No stopping this guy - Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Brey's team bullies Duke

There were a number of reasons why Duke lost to Notre Dame, but you can start with the play of the Irish.

Notre Dame toyed with Duke's defense, cutting inside for easy layups, getting big-time dunks, scoring repeatedly off of in-bounds plays.

Worse, they played harder. Is anyone willing to argue the point? Duke was outplayed.

Notre Dame shot 52.6% from the floor and that includes 50% from the three point line. Duke was outrebounded, out-assisted, out-blocked, and in general, as we said, outplayed. About the only battles Duke won were three point shooting and foul shots, which almost killed Notre Dame's upset bid (The Irish were just 13-24 for 54.2%, a number Duke nearly matched from behind the line)

Not that there weren't some bright spots. Marshall Plumlee played only four minutes, but every time out he looks less and less like a Dreat Dane puppy and more like a junkyard dog. He was agile enough to pick up an open-court steal, and smart enough to get rid of it (his brothers weren't always as wise).

Amile Jefferson continued his impressive rebounding of late with nine. Just as importantly, while Notre Dame worked him over inside, he didn't make a ton of stupid fouls.

Remember when he was called upon as a freshman against N.C. State and he picked up fouls faster than PJ Hairston picks up speeding tickets?

He was at a disadvantage and he went to the very limit of what he could do to defend bigger guys, and nothing more.

No reaching, no wild, pointless fouls. Jefferson is past that.

Rodney Hood had a solid game in general, shooting 8-17 and 5-10 from the three point line. His defense wasn't much to write home about, but that was true of almost the entire team.  His judgment on the last play was also poor.

Yet he played really hard and tried.

And the improvement shown by Quinn Cook is beginning to get raves. The cocky junior, who seems to have perfected his spin move (how do you know? When everyone knows he's going to do it and still can't stop him), shot 7-14, hit some key shots, and showed off some wonderful penetrating drives. He also had four assists and two steals.

But what about Jabari Parker? He had by far his worst game at Duke. What happened?
Well, first of all, Notre Dame wasn't playing around. They went after the kid. And second, he is a freshman in a hostile environment for the first time.

But we'd like to suggest something else. We don't think he got rattled necessarily. But we do wonder if he's gotten sick, perhaps even caught what Hood had against Eastern Michigan.

We can understand an off game. Parker just looked exhausted. And that, rather than just being off, explains missing wide open jumpers.

We don't know it to be true, but it won't surprise us at all if turns out later that he was fairly ill.

Most Duke fans, as it turns out, were also a bit ill too. Most of what happened in this game can only be explained by pointing out that Notre Dame, an erratic but experienced, bigger and battle-tested team, took the game right at the smaller, younger Devils.

A vintage Parker performance would've changed things massively, but Duke could have won without him.

Duke cannot, however, win without solid defense.

We will not be surprised to see some lineup changes made soon. We've been watching Duke for too long not to anticipate that.

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