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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball dominates Notre Dame in front of former stars

Alex O'Connell scored 12 points against Notre Dame, including two huge second-half threes
Alex O'Connell scored 12 points against Notre Dame, including two huge second-half threes

Coming off a physically and emotionally exhausting week, Duke had to rally quickly before taking on Notre Dame, and rally it did. The Blue Devils blew the Fighting Irish out of the water 94-60 and sent them packing back to South Bend, Ind. Now, the Blue Zone gives you three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

All-Star(s) weekend

As the NBA All-Star weekend hit its stride, so did the Blue Devils. Duke came out uncharacteristically strong and finally played its peak game of basketball. The Blue Devils outshot the Fighting Irish in every possible way, with a 56.5 percent mark from the field, 45.5 percent from three, and 85.7 percent from the free throw line. Duke hasn’t shot nearly this well in recent memory. The team kept firing all game, sharing the ball and giving every active roster member a chance with the ball.

With ten players contributing to the scoreboard and four scoring in double digits for the Blue Devils, there was virtually nothing Notre Dame could do. As the Fighting Irish directed their attention to one player, another would heat up, as seen by Alex O’Connell and Joey Baker’s second-half onslaught. Everyone brought something to the table, which is when Duke plays its best.

The Docile Irish

It seems that Notre Dame has been playing under a misnomer. While its mascot is a symbol of strength and resilience, the team showed anything but in Saturday night’s game. The visiting squad was in over its heads from the get-go, and Duke was able to come out of the gate aggressively. At one point in the first half, Notre Dame closed an eight-point lead to just a single point, though it eventually ran out of steam quickly and started to fall further and further behind. The margin grew relentlessly and it wasn’t long until the so-called “Fighting Irish” had rolled over and accepted defeat.

Zion in the house

Although many were probably still hoping for a surprise appearance in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Zion Williamson had his priorities straight. If you were watching the game at home, you may have noticed the former Blue Devil mentioned a few times, or a few hundred times. Between the countless shots of his cheeky smile and Dick Vitale fantasizing about his bank account, Williamson’s presence had an undeniable impact on the experience. 

Of course, Zion was joined by Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook, which made the game a whole Blue Devil reunion. From the Cameron Crazies to the media, everyone was happy to see these guys back to support the team, and they couldn’t have picked a better day to do it. The team that Zion saw take down Notre Dame by 34 points is very different from the one that he played on, but one that is equally equipped for a dramatic tournament run.

Three key stats:

Seven Blue Devils hit from deep

Duke’s 3-point shooting has improved dramatically from last season and even the beginning of this season. Not only are individuals getting more consistent, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski's options are expanding as well: seven Blue Devils made a 3-pointer against Notre Dame. Once the wheels were in motion, they didn’t stop until the buzzer sounded. Almost everyone was getting in on it, even Vernon Carey Jr., who knocked down his sixth triple of the season.

Notre Dame leads for 14 seconds

For the first 13 minutes of play, the game could have gone either way. However, even while the score was close, the Fighting Irish were only able to grab a lead for a measly 14 seconds. That lead was the 2-0 score that started off the game, which just goes to show how little control Notre Dame had throughout the contest. 

100 percent from the field

Two hidden gems on the Duke roster, Justin Robinson and Mike Buckmire, made rare appearances on the court. They played a total of seven minutes, but in that time the two Blue Devils were able to drain all two of their respective attempts from the floor. The duo is usually reserved for blowout wins like Saturday's, but they always bring a new energy to games that are already decided. Just as the Cameron Crazies are settling down, they see the faces of Robinson and Buckmire coming off the bench and want nothing more than for them to shine in the little time they have. Saturday night, they did.

Looking forward:

On Wednesday, the Blue Devils will make the short trip to Raleigh to take on the neighboring N.C. State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack are unranked but fifth in the ACC with a record of 7-6. No matter its rankings and record, however, N.C. State will throw everything it has at the Blue Devils once they step foot in the den.

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