SOUTH BEND, IND.—On a night that Jabari Parker struggled, the three couldn’t keep Duke alive.
Playing in its first-ever ACC game, Notre Dame continued a trend it became known for during its time in the Big East—knocking off top-10 opponents on its home floor. The Fighting Irish used a late rally to top the No. 7 Blue Devils 79-77 Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook carried the load as Parker struggled, making just 2-of-10 shots and scoring a career-low seven points.
“Well, he is a human being,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He didn’t play well today. That is part of being a freshman. Hopefully he will recover quickly from that.”
After missing significant time in Duke’s last matchup due to illness, Hood bounced back with 27 points and carried the Blue Devils (11-3, 0-1 in the ACC) in the first half. Cook added 22 points and four assists.
After two free throws from Hood, Duke trailed to the Fighting Irish 76-75 with 23.2 seconds to go in the game. They quickly fouled Garrick Sherman who missed his first of two free throws, leaving Duke down by two with 16.9 seconds remaining. Although he had a timeout remaining, Krzyzewski chose not to use it.
“We would have called a timeout, but [Hood] was matched up against a big guy,” Krzyzewski said. “We weren’t going to get a better possession than that. We were down by two, and you couldn’t draw it up better.”
As Parker watched on from the bench, everyone in the building knew who was getting the ball. Hood drove the ball to the right side and left his feet, but instead of finishing at the basket tried to turn and kick the ball out. Nobody was on the receiving end of Hood's errant pass, as Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson scooped the ball up to add two free throws and seal the upset victory.
“I was supposed to pull through for my team, but it just didn’t happen today,” Hood said. “They outplayed us. No excuse there.”
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, former assistant to Krzyzewski, knew exactly the kind of Blue Devil team he was up against. In the first half, Brey’s Fighting Irish (10-4, 1-0) exploited Duke’s lack of size and dominated inside, scoring 18 of their first 24 points in the paint.
Parker’s offensive struggles extended to the defensive end where he, Hood, Hairston and Jefferson could not contain the Notre Dame's Sherman, who had 14 points and eight rebounds on the afternoon.
The Blue Devils had difficulty finding their offensive flow throughout the game, but hit 12 of their first 22 shots from beyond the arc to take a 10-point lead on Notre Dame with 11:35 to play in the second half. At that point, Brey decided to go to a smaller lineup in order to defend the perimeter.
“We got Garrick Sherman out of there and we got [Austin] Burgett in there and played small and that lineup did two things, really,” Brey said. “We switched everything, which helped us, but they were hard to guard too. Our lineup was very hard to guard.”
Brey’s new lineup led to a late cold streak by Duke and a 20-4 run by his Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s second half run was led by senior guard Eric Atkins, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the second period and also dished out 11 assists. Pat Connaughton also played a big role down the stretch for Notre Dame, slashing to the hoop and throwing down thunderous dunks to ramp up the crowd on his way to 16 points.
Cook said Notre Dame deserved the win.
“[Pat] Connaughton made some crazy plays,” he said. “Atkins was solid all night. We let up when we were up by 10. They made some big-time plays at big-time moments.”
It was an emotional week for the entire Duke team leading into the team’s first conference game of the season, as Krzyzewski left the team Thursday to travel back to Chicago for his brother’s funeral. Krzyzewski didn’t comment on his personal situation after the game and preferred to keep the focus on his team’s play.
“We prepared well, but with everything Coach is going through, we felt that this was a statement game for us and for him,” Cook said. “But we can’t dwell on it.”With their first conference loss, the Blue Devils' streak of 122 straight weeks ranked in the top 10 of the AP top 25 is in serious jeopardy.