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Irish 95 Duke 91

The little things matter and Duke didn't do all of them very well.

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Jan 16, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) shoots over Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Ryan (4) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Jan 16, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) shoots over Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Ryan (4) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

As presently constituted, Duke is shy of depth, size and rebounding.

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Notre Dame exploited those weaknesses Saturday afternoon, getting into the lane with ease and owning their offensive boards. The result was a come from behind 95-91 Notre Dame win that dropped Duke to 14-4, 3-2 in the ACC.

If you don’t have a rooting interest, it was a pretty cool game, close,lots of offense, not so much defense.

But if you’re reading this you probably do have a rooting interest and you may be wondering how Duke can score 91 points in regulation and lose. At home.

Two statistics answer the question. Notre Dame outscored Duke 50-26 in the paint and 18-4 on second-chance points.

And when you only turn the ball over six times, shoot 80 percent (16-20) from the line and grab a good many of your misses, then you’re going to score a lot of points.

Notre Dame scored a lot of points.

Duke players tend to attribute shortcomings to effort not schemes or personnel.

That was the case after the loss.

"It all comes down to effort," Luke Kennard said. "Defensive rebounds definitely hurt us tonight and that is what won them the game. Those second-chance points really hurt us tonight."

Jones agreed. "They were just executing and we were not talking enough. They kind of wanted it more than us tonight. They got layups whenever they wanted, so there confidence was up."

Duke jumped to an 8-0 lead, 3-pointers by Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard and a jumper by Kennard. Those two and Brandon Ingram scored Duke’s first 27 points.

Duke seemed to have Notre Dame on the ropes for much of the first half but the Irish refused to go away and Duke was unable to make them go away. Duke led 16-8 before Steve Vasturia scored eight points, making it 20-16.

Notre Dame closed to 25-24 before Duke surged to a 31-26 lead. Kennard missed the first end of a bonus—he came into the game shooting over 93 percent from the line. In fairness to Kennard, he ended the game 6-7 from the line.

Notre Dame took its only first-half lead at 35-34 but Duke surged again, leading 43-35 and 46-39.

But every time Notre Dame needed a basket to stay in contact, Notre Dame got a basket.

Including the short Demetrius Jackson jumper at the buzzer made it 50-45 at intermission.

The beginning of the second half was a nightmare for Duke. The visitors channeled their heritage and went all Classic Big East on Duke and there wasn’t much Duke could do about it. Think rugby scrum when your opponent out-weighs you by 20 pounds.

Notre Dame outscored Duke 11-1 in the first three minutes of the half, outrebounding Duke 10-2 over that span and sending Ingram to the bench with his third and fourth fouls.

Duke was playing catchup, which requires points and stops. Duke filled the first requirement quite well, scoring with great efficiency, especially Kennard, who’s becoming an offensive juggernaut.

But Duke couldn’t find a way to get stops. And truth be told, it had the look of just-one-of-those-days. Bonzie Colson game into the game having made 3 of 15 3-pointers in his career. He knocked down a pair in the second half, the first making it 64-61, the second 69-64.

Then there was Rex Pflueger, a freshman who came into the game having scored two points in ACC competition. He played four minutes against Virginia Tech but got the call when starter Matt Ryan got into early foul trouble.

Plueger scored seven points, none bigger than a 3-pointer as the shot-clock expired, that put Notre Dame up 86-80, with 3:10 left, seconds after an apparent Jackson travel went uncalled.

Still, Duke fought back and had a chance to win. Two Kennard foul shot and a Grayson Allen 3-pointer made it 86-85. Allen gave Duke the 87-86 lead on a layup and again at 89-88 on two foul shots.

Leading by a point, with 46 second left, Duke needed a solid defensive sequence to wrap up a great, come-from behind victory.

Again, Jackson again got into the lane, Colson muscled it in, drew a foul and converted the foul shot.

. "Even when we had a minute left," Kennard noted, "we just needed one stop but they scored. I can’t preach defense enough . . . . That is just what hurt us the most."

It was still a two-point game and Duke had plenty of time. But Duke failed to attack inside and Matt Jones missed a decent look at a 3 from the top of the circle. Jackson made two foul shots but Plumlee followed with a dunk, cutting it to 93-91.

Fittingly, Notre Dame put it away on the boards. Jackson missed the first end of the bonus with four seconds left but Zach Auguste grabbed the rebound and made two foul shots to end the scoring.

Duke doesn’t have much time to nurse its wounds, with Syracuse coming in Monday night.

Duke has lost three times since Amile Jefferson went down—don’t expect him back until next month-and all three were one-possession games in the final seconds.

Glass half-full or half-empty? "The little things matter," Krzyzewski says. "That’s the difference between being 5-0 and 3-2. . . . I thought our kids fought and they tried their best. The defensive rebounding killed us."

Allen says he hopes Duke has learned that lesson. "I think collectively, as a team, we have been surprised. We are shorthanded and we are going to have to fight, nothing is going to be easy. . . . That is not how it works in the ACC."


This was Notre Dame’s first win in Cameron and their third in two seasons against Duke.

Kennard led Duke with a season-best 30 points, while Ingram played effectively with four fouls and finished with 25. Allen had 18 points and six assists, all of the assists in the first half.

Marshall Plumlee led Duke with nine rebounds but Ingram, Allen and Jones combined for a modest nine rebounds in 118 minutes.

Kennard added eight rebounds but had four of Duke’s 10 turnovers.

Duke missed nine of its 30 free throws, two of which were the first end of a one-and-one.

Colson led everyone with a career-high 31 points, with Jackson and Vasturia adding 24 and 22. Zach Auguste (14) and Colson (11) paced Notre Dame on the boards.