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Duke’s Offense Sputtered At Notre Dame But The Defense Was So Good It Hardly Mattered

Quite a night for the cold-shooting Devils

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 30 Womens - Boston College at Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - JANUARY 30: Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) drives around Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Blake Wesley (0) during a mens college basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on January 31, 2022, at Purcell Pavilion At The Joyce Center in South Bend, IN.
Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A national television audience tuned into the Duke-Notre Dame Big Monday contest expecting a shoot-out.

Instead they got a lid-on-the-basket contest in which both teams struggled to reach 100 combined points.

But Duke had 57 of those, Notre Dame 43, as the Irish endured an offensive nightmare. An offense built on the 3-point shot went splat as Notre Dame didn’t make a single triple in the first half and ended the game hitting 3 of 18 from beyond the arc.

Duke was even worse, 3 for 19. But the Blue Devils have a more potent inside game and utilized that to seize control in the middle of the first half and never relinquish it.

The game was a big deal for Notre Dame. No surprise there. It was Notre Dame’s first home sell-out since they played Duke in 2019 and there was enough green in the stands to make you think you were in an Irish Bar on St. Patrick’s Day.

But the special day was short of points. Notre Dame led once, at 2-0 before going almost seven minutes without a field goal. They trailed 11-4, closed to 13-10 and then finished the half with a 4:51 scoring drought that saw Duke extend its lead from 18-14 to 27-14.

With defense like that, you don’t need much offense and Duke didn’t get much. But they did get contributions from a lot of people. Mark Williams turned it over twice early and was replaced by Theo John, who quickly muscled in a jump hook to make it 7-2. John ended with six points and nine rebounds. Bates Jones gave Duke another solid performance, with five points.

“I think a key part of the game was the end of the first half,” Mike Krzyzewski said, “where we went on a 9-0 run with our bench out on the court. Theo, Bates, Joey- they did a heck of a job.”

And yes, Trevor Keels came back. He wasn’t sharp; no one could possibly have expected that. But he still was a tough physical presence and hopefully those 26 minutes will help shake off the rust from his almost three-week absence.

And Keels did lead everyone with four assists.

With Notre Dame’s 3-point prowess, there was always a chance that they could get back in the game after intermission. We all saw what happened Saturday at Louisville when the Cardinals erased all of a 16-point deficit before falling short in the end. And Notre Dame is better than Louisville.

But Duke’s defense never let up, never gave an inch. Duke’s lead hit its high-water mark at 42-20 and was still at 20 as late as 3:21 left, at 54-34 before a late Irish run made the score a bit more respectable and enabled them to break the point-a-minute threshold.

Duke had two players in double figures, Banchero with 21 points, A.J. Griffin with 13. Both joined John with nine rebounds. Williams recovered from his shaky start to give Duke 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, a neat assist to Banchero and boatful of intimidations.

“The first half, I was holding myself back and not taking the shots that I should have been,” Banchero said. “Coach came up to me when I sat down and was like, ‘Shoot the ball. This is the game where you’ve just got to shoot it.’ So in the second half, I wanted to come out and not think about anything, just play.”

Fourteen of Banchero’s 21 points came in the second half.

Paul Atkinson led the Irish with 14 points, their only player with more than seven points.

Duke won this on defense. Dane Goodwin came into the game averaging almost 16 points per game; he missed all seven of his shots from the field and went scoreless. Freshman phenom Blake Wesley was held to 6 points on 3 for 15 shooting. Duke pounded Notre Dame on the glass, 51-36 and held Notre Dame to 28 percent shooting from the field. None of Notre Dame’s starters made half of their shots.

Mike Krzyzewski summed up.

“It’s team defense. We have good players, but we’re athletic. Wendell did a really good job on Wesley. Our bigs, too, on the ball screen in an ice where we didn’t have to switch it all the time. With Goodwin, we were lucky I guess. He’s so good. When I looked at the box score, I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ He’s one of the best players in the league. He’s played as well as anybody in the league. He is 50 percent from three for the season and just solid. He wasn’t able to get his post move because AJ was on him. We have a big perimeter, a lengthy perimeter, so it’s something they probably haven’t seen. For this one game, it helped us.”

The win keeps Duke atop the ACC race at 8-2, tied with Miami and 18-3 overall. Notre Dame drops to 7-3, 14-7, suffering their first loss at Purcell Pavilion this season.

Next up for Duke. Well, we all know the answer to that. But a good win, a really good win for a team that’s trending in the right direction.


Player Of The Game vs. Notre Dame

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Wendell Moore
    (6 votes)
  • 6%
    AJ Griffin
    (43 votes)
  • 66%
    Paolo Banchero
    (438 votes)
  • 16%
    Mark Williams
    (107 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeremy Roach
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    Theo John
    (22 votes)
  • 1%
    Bates Jones
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaylen Blakes
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Michael Savarino
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Trevor Keels
    (10 votes)
654 votes total Vote Now