Duke's biggest opponent in this game, like every game this season, was fatigue and fouls and both took a toll as Notre Dame chopped down a 16-point lead to beat Duke in overtime, 84-79.
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Not to take anything away from the Irish, who played very well late, but this game was a long shot for Duke and more so after Marshall Plumlee broke his nose Wednesday night.
Duke finished the game with Plumlee, Chase Jeter and Grayson Allen on the bench, and with this team, you just have few alternatives.
Duke had a chance to steal the game in regulation but Luke Kennard's shot missed and realistically the Blue Devils didn't have a shot in overtime.
Fatigue shows up in the shooting percentage - Duke finished with just 34.2% from the floor - but it showed even more when the Irish mounted their comeback.
Notre Dame ripped off a 22-6 run against the Blue Devils, at least partly because Duke's legs were just gone.
Despite the loss there were some real bright spots, starting with Chase Jeter.
The freshman big man has been playing better and better and had seven points and six rebounds, shooting 3-4.
Sean Obi got some rare court time and picked up four boards and two foul shots.
And overall, despite the fatigue, Duke fought, which is the main characteristic of this team. These Blue Devils do fight.
Of course so did Notre Dame, and no one fought harder than the man with a poodle mohawk, Zache Auguste.
When Miles Plumlee had a 20+rebounding game, brother Mason called it a "man's game."
Fair enough: Auguste finished with 22 rebounds and 19 points, a man's game by any standard. That was brilliant.
Bonzi Colson had a nifty double-double with 12 and 12.
Notre Dame's backcourt continues to shoot poorly - a combined 7-21 - but Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia combined for 25 points - and Vasturia, the Baby Faced Assasin, hit a critical late floater.
There just wasn't much Duke could to stop the onslaught, but as Plumlee has said, this team doesn't quit.
We know Coach K's philosophy is to use each game to get better, and we're sure he'll find a way to extract lessons here, but in this case, with this particular team, back-to-back-to-back games would have meant a loss to UNC and deep fatigue.
The other bright spot is that now Duke can get some meaningful rest. The earliest Duke would play would be Thursday, and with a bit of luck that'll be Friday. Either way, it's almost a week of rest, and we're sure they can use it.
Mike Krzyzewski is a master at getting guys to push past their limits, but at a certain point, physiology doesn't care.
We really don't want to take away from Notre Dame's win. They played their hearts out too and it was a beautiful comeback. But we wish it could have been closer to an een fight.
We don't want to look too far ahead because Duke could make a run this year in the NCAA Tournament. But next year?
It is such a different story. Duke will have immense talent and depth and the defense is going to be phenomenal.
Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Derryck Thornton and Harry Giles are all outstanding defenders. We expect Frank Jackson will be too.
Duke will have depth at every position and superb offensive talents in Allen, Kennard, Jayson Tatum and Giles. Role players abound.
But that's next year. We'll come back to that soon.
This year? The NCAA tournament is a big crapshoot, not this year but every year. There's a ton of luck involved - injuries, foul calls, who you end up playing. There are a million variables.
But we will say this: teams that are hardnosed and tough-minded have an advantage. And while there are deeper teams and teams with more talent, there aren't many teams with more heart than what Duke has shown.
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