Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

Duke made history Saturday, beating Notre Dame 75-69 to become the first team to win four games in four days to take home the ACC championship. The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker reflected on the Blue Devils' run and broke down how they staged a second-half comeback again in the championship game.

0:20—Instant reaction to the most improbable of Duke's 20 ACC championships

1:34—How Jayson Tatum took over the game in the final minutes to carry the Blue Devils to the win

2:09—Why Bonzie Colson dominated Duke again but could not make as much of an impact in the closing minutes Read more »

Halftime: Duke 38, Notre Dame 34

NEW YORK—After getting to the ACC championship with two dramatic comebacks from double-digit deficits in the second half, Duke found itself in an unfamiliar position for much of the first half Saturday—in the lead.

The fifth-seeded Blue Devils lead No. 3 seed Notre Dame 38-34 at the Barclays Center, with Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum combining for 22 points to lead a balanced attack. Duke is controlling the paint for the first time in the tournament with 18 paint points, and Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles have both been effective in the post.

But Fighting Irish star Bonzie Colson has kept his team in it with 15 points, cutting Duke's lead to two with six seconds left in the period before an Allen buzzer-beating layup made it a four-point game again.  

Although the Blue Devils have started out cold from the perimeter, shooting just 3-of-10 from beyond the arc, they were killing Notre Dame on the glass in the opening minutes, just like they did in the regular season. Tatum made the play of the half with a one-handed putback dunk off a missed triple by Kennard, two of Duke's seven second-chance points in the half. Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

When the Blue Devils hit the road and knocked off Notre Dame earlier this season, no one anticipated that it would be part of their eventual seven-game winning streak. Likewise, not many could have expected Duke to win three games in three days to reach the ACC tournament title game—yet, the Blue Devils will take to the floor Saturday night looking to collect a 20th conference tournament trophy.

Body up Bonzie

For a Duke team that has struggled to rebound the ball much of the season due to a lack of depth in the frontcourt, a small Fighting Irish side may be the perfect antidote—especially one night after North Carolina dominated the Blue Devils to the tune of 50 points in the paint. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame and the ACC's leading rebounder, averages 10.2 boards per night and had nine of the Fighting Irish's 26 the last time these teams met. With a wide frame at 225 pounds, but just standing 6-foot-5, Duke will have the length to go up and grab the ball against Colson—Jayson Tatum led the Blue Devils with 14 rebounds in the late January matchup in addition to nine combined boards between big men Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles.

Against a much taller Florida State team Friday, Notre Dame really had no say in the paint. The Seminoles outrebounded the Fighting Irish 41-23 and converted that into a 42-24 advantage in paint points. If the Blue Devils can contain Colson down low and force him into tougher outside shots, it will be one less area that Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff have to worry about against a dangerous Notre Dame offense.

Shooters shoot

In terms of offense from the perimeter, there may not be two more feared teams in the ACC than Duke and the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame got off to a lightning-quick start in its semifinal, jumping out to a 42-26 halftime advantage thanks to 8-of-15 shooting beyond the arc. Guards Matt Farrell, Matt Ryan, Rex Pflueger and Steve Vasturia all drilled multiple triples and the Fighting Irish finished the game 48.1 percent from distance. Similarly, the Blue Devils got a huge boost from Grayson Allen—who drained four first-half 3-pointers on his way to 5-of-6 shooting from downtown—and a perfect 2-of-2 night on 3-pointers from Luke Kennard. Read more »

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

The Blue Devils are one win away from one of the most improbable tournament runs in program history after rallying from a 13-point deficit to beat top-seeded North Carolina 93-83. A game-changing 29-9 run pushed Duke over the top, with big contributions off the bench from Grayson Allen and Harry Giles.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Match up with Hicks: The Blue Devils struggled to contain Hicks, especially in the first half, when he converted on four of his seven attempts from the field. Although Duke was able to pull out the victory, Hicks had an impact for North Carolina, scoring 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe in the loss.
  • Control the Tempo: The game was all North Carolina in the first half, when it outscored the Blue Devils 49-42. The Tar Heels were getting their way in the paint as well, with everyone finding their way to easy shots at the rim. However, Duke was able to control the pace in the second half, with Grayson Allen driving and dishing out to the 3-point line on the majority of his five assists. The Blue Devils were able to convert on many of those and take the lead late in the game.
  • Get hot from long range: Since the Blue Devils were heavily outmanned down low, it was especially important that they got hot from three. Duke did exactly that against North Carolina, converting 10 of its 17 attempts from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils got a spark early on from Allen, who got hot after nailing his first four shots from deep in the contest. He would hit one more triple in the second half en route to a sizzling 5-for-6 night from beyond the arc.

Three key stats:

  • Duke shoots 33-of-37 from the free-throw line: After struggling to get to the line late in the season, the Blue Devils were on the attack Friday and made the most of their shots at the stripe. Sophomore Luke Kennard was outstanding from the line, as he made all 10 of his attempts, freshman Jayson Tatum was perfect on his seven attempts and fellow freshman Harry Giles, a 45.5 percent shooter on the season, converted two attempts late in the game to ice the victory.
  • Grayson Allen shoots 5-of-6 from 3-point range: After shooting just 29.7 percent from beyond the arc since his 7-of-12 performance from deep against North Carolina at home Feb. 9, Allen returned to his form that earned him preseason national player of the year recognition. The junior was excellent, converting five of his six attempts from deep, which ignited the Blue Devil offense and kept them in the game in the first half.
  • Kennedy Meeks shoots 7-of-9 with 15 points in the first half: The Blue Devils really struggled to contain the senior big man in the first half. Meeks found his way around the Duke defense and was able to convert six of his first seven shots, all from point-blank range. He led the Tar Heel offense early on and helped them get out to their 61-48 lead in the second half, which would quickly evaporate.

Three key plays: Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame

After overcoming a double-digit deficit for the second straight game against a top-10 team, the Blue Devils will face off against the Fighting Irish in the ACC championship game Saturday. Notre Dame knocked off top-25 sides Virginia and Florida State to advance to the finals, and Duke will look defeat the Fighting Irish for the second time this season after a 10-point victory Jan. 30 in South Bend, Ind.

Duke: Forward Harry Giles

If Duke hopes to accomplish four wins in four consecutive games—a feat yet to be accomplished in ACC tournament history—head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team will need Harry Giles to contribute meaningful minutes again. In the semifinal matchup against rival North Carolina, Giles was a major contributor in two critical stretches that allowed Duke to first close the gap, and then extend the lead. With Duke leading 75-70 late in the second half, Giles had a huge block and then ran the floor to slam home a lob from Grayson Allen and extend the Blue Devil lead to seven. Although he only scored six points, the freshman big man pulled down seven rebounds to go along with four blocks and a steal.

Duke plays a very short bench and is especially thin in the frontcourt. With Amile Jefferson’s need for rest for extended stretches and foul trouble concerns across the board, Giles will likely be thrown into the game for key periods once again. If he can follow up on arguably his best performance with a high motor and defensive intensity to show flashes of his high school brilliance, Giles could potentially be vital in leading the Blue Devils to their 20th ACC tournament title. Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Duke somehow found a way to claw back from a 13-point deficit against top-seeded rival North Carolina in a 93-83 victory in the ACC tournament semifinals. The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker reacted to the Blue Devils' best performance of the season.

0:17—How Duke flipped a switch for the second straight game to overcome a double-digit deficit against a top-10 team

1:05—Why North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II's fourth foul changed the complexion of the game Read more »

Halftime: North Carolina 49, Duke 42

NEW YORK—Last week, Duke struggled to guard Isaiah Hicks in its loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

This time, the Tar Heels' other senior big man is causing all sorts of problems for the Blue Devils.

Kennedy Meeks is dominating Duke in the post and has 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting to propel North Carolina to a 49-42 halftime lead in the first ACC tournament semifinal Friday night at the Barclays Center. Meeks scored 10 of the Tar Heels' first 12 points, more than the eight points he scored all of last Saturday, and North Carolina has racked up 32 paint points and 15 assists to build a comfortable cushion.

Grayson Allen came off the bench for Duke and knocked down four 3-pointers to score 12 points, but the Blue Devils have received little production outside of Allen and Jayson Tatum, who leads the team with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Tatum scored nine points late in the half to pull his team back within seven thanks to a 7-1 spurt, and has picked up right where he left off Thursday against Louisville.  Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Duke split with arch rival North Carolina during the season, and the two teams will get the chance to settle the score on a neutral site in Friday night's ACC tournament semifinals in New York. The No. 5 seed Blue Devils are playing the top-seeded Tar Heels in the postseason for the first time since 2011, when Duke won the ACC championship 81-67. Here are three keys to Friday's heavyweight battle.

Match up with Hicks

After a strained hamstring sidelined Isaiah Hicks for Duke's first matchup with North Carolina, the forward made up for lost time last Saturday on his Senior Night with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds. He had a lot more strength and experience than Blue Devil freshman Jayson Tatum in the post, and he capitalized on Duke's switches on screens whenever he had a guard matched up against him.

The Blue Devils cannot let Hicks get position near the basket early and often again, and when he does get the ball, they have to make it harder for him to score. That could mean more playing time for freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, who were both effective defensively during Duke's rally in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Control the tempo

The Tar Heels always play at a fast pace and push the ball up the floor almost every time they get possession, led by quick point guard Joel Berry II. They will also be fresher than the Blue Devils after enjoying a second-round bye Wednesday and cruising past Miami Thursday with only one starter needing to play more than 30 minutes. Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Duke and North Carolina will face off against each other in the next chapter of their classic rivalry Friday, but it won't be in Durham or Chapel Hill or anywhere in the South. They are meeting in New York in the ACC tournament semifinals at the Barclays Center, with the Blue Devils playing for a chance at their first conference championship game appearance in three years. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: Guard Grayson Allen

Allen always seems to thrive under the bright lights against the Tar Heels, averaging 22.8 points in four games against them in the last two years. The junior guard bounced back from his first scoreless game since his freshman year in the Blue Devils' ACC tournament opener against Clemson Wednesday with 18 critical points on 5-of-12 shooting off the bench to help Duke upset Louisville in a quarterfinal nail-biter. Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Louisville

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Louisville

Duke is halfway to winning four games in four days and taking home the ACC championship after rallying from a 12-point deficit to beat Louisville 81-77, but its toughest test awaits Friday night. The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker reacted to Duke's dramatic victory in New York and previewed the Blue Devils' impending showdown with top-seeded North Carolina in the semifinals.

0:18—How Duke's big three of Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum helped the Blue Devils outlast Louisville in a back-and-forth game 

0:44—Why the Blue Devils' switch to a 2-3 zone helped spark them to a second-half comeback from a 12-point deficit Read more »