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Next Up For Basketball - Jerian Grant And The Fighting Irish

Stopping Notre Dame's potent offense won't be easy.

He's baaaack! Duke's Justise Winslow blocks a shot on Georgia Tech's Marques Georges-Hunt
He's baaaack! Duke's Justise Winslow blocks a shot on Georgia Tech's Marques Georges-Hunt
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Having beaten Duke twice at home, Notre Dame now travels to Cameron for its first visit to Duke as an ACC member.

For Duke, having seen Jerian Grant put on an incredible performance at home, the challenge is obvious: grant Grant nothing.

Easier said than done, as Duke fans know too well, and Notre Dame has lots of other ways to beat you too. Grant, though, is the key.

Not only did he score 23 at Notre Dame, he shot 9-15 and 2-4 from three point range. He also had six rebounds and most impressively 12 assists.

How often do non-point guards get double figure assists?

It was such a great performance that it reminded us a bit of playing Len Bias and Rodney Rogers, both of whom just went off in Cameron.

And that was partly by design. Duke had decided that those guys were so overwhelming that it made more sense to shut down other guys instead.

So would it surprise us if Duke accepted a great game from Grant and went after, say, Zache Auguste and Pat Connaughton instead?

Not at all.

At Notre Dame, Auguste had 14 points on 6-11, while Connaughton hit 13 points on 5-8 and 3-6.

That was a four point game, remember, and despite Grant's phenomenal outing, it was a one-point game with 1:12 left.

Shave four or five points off of Auguste and a three pointer off of Connaughton, or make Demetrius Jackson really work for his and you have a very different game.

It might be worth mentioning as well that the Irish missed three free throws in the last :14 seconds.

It didn't matter very much, but in a different situation it certainly would have.

Duke has had free throw woes as well, of course, but this seems like a good place to mention this: so far this season, Quinn Cook has missed one against Wisconsin, one against Louisville, one against Virginia and one against Georgia Tech.

That's four all season and one missed free throw at Cameron, and that works out to 92%.

Okay, back to it.

At South Bend, the Irish ended up shooting 51.8% and 44.4% from three pont range and unlike Duke, shot reasonably well from the foul line at 68.8% (Duke managed just 50%, though Cook obviously wasn't the problem.

There are a few big differences for Duke from the first game, which was Rasheed Sulaimon's last as a Blue Devil.

Sulaimon didn't have a tremendous game to go out on. He shot just 1-6, had one rebound, no assists, two steals and three points in 12 mnutes.

On the other hand, though, after kind of disappearing for a few games, most likely because of injuries to his shoulder and ribs, Justise Winslow has re-emerged. He scored 13 against Notre Dame last time, but his influence on the game wasn't as big as it was against Virginia, where he had 15 and didn't really have that much trouble getting to the basket.

Winslow scored 10 against State, but against Miami had just two, against Louisville just three, against Pitt just seven and had none against St. John's.

And his rebounding has improved dramatically as well: he had two at Notre Dame, 11 against UVA and 10 against Georgia Tech.

That's offense we're talking about primarily, which is almost always easier to measure. As he gets back to his normal level of play, Winslow's defense should pick up as well.

The other factor, a bit more of a wild card really, is the new role for Grayson Allen.

Against Louisville and Notre Dame, the powerfully built freshman didn't play at all. He did play against Pitt, but less than a minute, and got just three at St. John's.

Since Sulaimon left, his development is more critical and he's been on the court more, including 11 minutes against Virginia.

Allen's biggest problem is probably just adjusting to the college game. Certainly it's not talent or strength: he's a lot stronger than most 18-year-old guards, and the kid can really leap. He also has a nose for getting to the basket and should become an outstanding defender.

He hasn't really had a chance to show it yet, but he's also an outstanding three point shooter.

The faster he gets better, in other words, the better for Duke as a whole.

In the first game, Amile Jefferson played minimally as the matchup favored the Irish. Duke won't have the luxury of putting Sulaimon in for him, so it'll fall to Winslow, Jones and perhaps Allen to defend Mike Brey's mid-sized bombers.

It's interesting to have gotten this far without mentioning Jahlil Okafor. The big kid got 22 points and 17 boards at Notre Dame - a man's game, as Mason Plumlee might have said.

Notre Dame really doesn't have a direct answer for him. Zach Auguste is the biggest regular, and at 6-9 and 242, he's not that far off. He is giving up about 30 lbs. though. He had three fouls in the first game and ended up playing just 22 minutes.

Any game comes down to exploiting mismatches and deceptions. We can't predict the deceptions, but the matchups are certainly interesting and could go either way.

One final thought. In sports like baseball, football and golf, the crowd can have a definite  affect. There are no sports we can think of, though, other than boxing, where a crowd can so significantly influence the outcome.

This is precisely the sort of game for which Cameron is famous. If the Cameron Crazies and upstairs crank the intensity to a Syracuse or Carolina type level, Duke will have a real advantage.

In other words, it's time to kick it up a notch, Cameron.