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Jim On Duke’s Loss To Notre Dame

A tough one to swallow but crucial experience for a young team

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina
Feb 8, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) before the game at Dean E. Smith Center.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After Duke’s 79-53 win over Clemson back on January 30 Duke freshman D.J. Steward called the victory Duke’s “launching pad.”

I don’t think this is what he had in mind.

Notre Dame handed Duke its third straight setback Tuesday afternoon, 93-89. The loss dropped the reeling Blue Devils to 7-8 overall, 5-6 in the ACC. This is the first time Duke has been below .500 in February since 1995, the year Pete Gaudet took over for an ailing Mike Krzyzewski. It is the first time a Krzyzewski-coached team has dropped below .500 in February since Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie, were freshmen back in 1983.

Duke led most of the game. But the culprit in this loss was the same one in Duke’s losses to Miami and North Carolina. When Duke needed a stop, it simply couldn’t get one. The Irish ended the game on a 15-9 run over the final six minutes. Notre Dame hit 55 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the foul line, with only seven turnovers.

Ah, the foul shots. Notre Dame got into the bonus with around nine minutes left in the second half and hit 18-of-20 from the charity stripe.

“We’ve got try not to foul . . . and listen to the scouting report,” Wendell Moore said. “It’s just that one or two plays. We couldn’t get a stop. They got every shot they wanted, they got every 3 they wanted, they were getting fouled and getting to the foul line. . . . we can’t expect to win when we put a great free-throw shooting team on the line.”

Duke has been plagued much of the season with slow starts in one or both halves. Instead Duke exploded out of the locker room. The Blue Devils hit their first four 3-pointers and jumped to a 23-8 lead after seven minutes.

But Duke couldn’t control Cormac Ryan, a 6-5 Stanford transfer who had a career game in willing Notre Dame back into the game.

“In the first-half, we over-helped,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “Part of their scheme is, they have really good spacing. . . . They got three 3s in a row with our over-help. Ryan really went by us a couple of times. We pressured him like he picked up his dribble instead of controlling the dribble. Our guys are playing hard but you’ve got to play that smarter.”

Ryan came into the contest averaging just under 9.7 points per game. He scored 11 in a five-minute span in the first half. He hit 3s, he hit layups, he hit in-between, he got open with the ball, he got open without the ball. He even drew a foul on a 3-pointer, making all three foul shots.

Ryan scored 21 points in the first half, a career-high in 20 minutes against a defense that didn’t have any idea how to guard him.

“In the first half he was playing really well,” Moore said. “He had a bounce in his step that you only see when guys get going. . . . He got every look he wanted. We just have to do a better job when a guy gets hot like that of keying on him.”

Still Duke led 50-45 at the half and extended the lead to nine points on several occasions after intermission. But Duke couldn’t get stops and it became eyeball to eyeball and Duke blinked first.

Krzyzewski cited a couple of empty possessions late, when Duke couldn’t turn run-outs into points.

What next?

Duke is rapidly approaching the point-of-no-return, when only an ACC Tournament title will keep Duke’s NCAA-Tournament streak alive.

It’s gotten so bad that Moore was asked in the post game if he was encouraged that Duke kept it close against Notre Dame.

Moore didn’t bite.

“I think at this point in time progress would be a win for us. . . . The next step for us is just winning.”

Krzyzewski said Duke would keep working and would reap the benefits of that work.

He just didn’t say when.

“We’re not playing just to get experience. You get experience by playing hard to win. Even though we’re not winning, I think the attempt and the preparation to win are there or else I would tell you. Youth has to be developed and our program isn’t accustomed to that. We’re not accustomed to losing. But we are and you have to lose and take responsibility and build from it.”


Moore continued his recent revival, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, both team highs. He was joined in double figures by Jeremy Roach (16 points), Matt Hurt (13) and D.J. Steward (10). But Hurt had another sub-par game on the boards, with four rebounds, while Jalen Johnson struggled to a 15-minute, 8-point, 0-rebound effort. Duke shot 52 percent from the field, 45 percent on 3s and 7 of 8 from the line.

But Duke didn’t lose the game on the offensive end, they lost by allowing a 7-10 team to score 93 points.

Ryan led Notre Dame with 28 points, followed by Prentice Hubbs with 15. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, while their two reserves each had seven points.


Player Of The Game vs. Notre Dame

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Wendell Moore
    (279 votes)
  • 1%
    Matthew Hurt
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    Mark Williams
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    DJ Steward
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Jeremy Roach
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Jalen Johnson
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    Henry Coleman
    (26 votes)
  • 5%
    Joey Baker
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (9 votes)
381 votes total Vote Now