SOUTH BEND, IND.—Last week, the Blue Devils pulled off a big come-from-behind win Saturday, only to have their momentum halted by a disappointing home loss against N.C. State.
Duke came to South Bend Monday night fresh off another Saturday second-half surge—but this time it came away with the victory in one of its most complete efforts of the year.
The No. 21 Blue Devils held off a late charge from No. 20 Notre Dame with an 11-2 run down the stretch to earn an 84-74 victory at Purcell Pavilion, their first win against a ranked ACC team this season. Freshman Jayson Tatum picked up his first career double-double with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in the win, contributing a solid effort on the defensive end as well in arguably the best game of his young career.
Going up against a high-powered Fighting Irish offense, it was the Blue Devils’ passing and ball movement that generated more open looks, as the team had four players with at least 16 points and shot 51.9 percent from the floor overall.
A late offensive rebound and tip-in from Harry Giles gave Duke a 72-64 lead with two and a half minutes to go, and the freshman added a pair of free throws on the next possession to ice the game. The Blue Devils made the most of their trips to the free throw line—where they converted 20-of-21 second-half attempts—as veterans Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson were forced to sit out the final minutes after fouling out.
“Losing them hurts but our guys did a great job of knocking down free throws. Frank [Jackson], Jayson and Matt [Jones], they all really sealed the deal for us,” junior Grayson Allen said. “Down the stretch, we’re playing without two of our starters and two of our really key guys, so it was huge for Frank and Harry [Giles] to come in and play the way they did. We trust our depth.”
The Blue Devils (17-5, 5-4 in the ACC) led comfortably early in the second half after building a 37-25 halftime lead, but Notre Dame (17-6, 6-4) started mounting a comeback with about 10 minutes left to play. With the Duke offense going scoreless for more than four minutes, Fighting Irish point guard Matt Farrell drained a 3-pointer that cut the edge to five points with less than eight minutes remaining.
It did not get any better for the Blue Devils coming out of the under-eight media timeout when Bonzie Colson—who scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds—bullied his way inside for back-to-back buckets as Notre Dame clawed back to within a single point.
“We knew that they were going to make runs,” Blue Devil interim head coach Jeff Capel said. “Again, they’re a really good team that can score the basketball. But every time they made a run, we stepped up. A couple times, they cut it to five. At one point, they cut it to one, but we found ways to step up and make plays.”
Allen—who finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting despite heavy boos from the crowd the entire game—finally ended the 12-0 run with a 3-pointer. The junior then quickly splashed home another jumper on the next possession to give Duke a little more breathing room and a 68-62 advantage.
Tatum added another bucket down low that got the Blue Devil offense back on track, completing a 7-1 run heading into the under-four media timeout.
“We were up 10 or 12 points at half and the main focus was don’t let up,” Tatum said. “We knew they were going to make shots—basketball is a game of runs and we just couldn’t fold when they did, with them having home court advantage. So that was just our main focus, especially in the second half, was not fold. Just knowing that when they make runs, we’re going to make runs back.”
After Duke built a 12-point lead at halftime with arguably its best defensive half of the season, Notre Dame’s offense—which did not make a field goal in the final 8:40 of the first half—came out firing after halftime. Senior V.J. Beachem promptly poured in five of his team-high 20 points to spark a 9-2 run that got the Fighting Irish right back in the game.
Tatum helped slow down the initial surge with two buckets of his own, but then he went down hard following a fastbreak layup and sat out for a few minutes. That did not seem to slow down the swingman at all when he returned to the court, and the St. Louis native scored nine points in the first eight minutes of the second half en route to his first career double-double.
Notre Dame’s offense got back on track in the second half by shooting 62.5 percent from the field, but the Blue Devils held tight in the games waning minutes and shut down Beachem and company to come away with a big win. Beachem did not make a field goal the final 12:37.
“We really hung our hat on the defensive end,” Kennard said. “To see us get stops like that—I’ve been saying all year that our defense leads to our offense and it really, really showed tonight. We were able to get stops, get big stops, and then come down and make big shots.”
After earning its first win at Notre Dame since 1995 and first since the Fighting Irish joined the ACC in 2013-14, Duke will return to action Saturday at home against Pittsburgh at 1 p.m., the first of three consecutive games the Blue Devils will play at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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