With the NBA’s All-Star weekend taking place over the weekend, an abundance of former Blue Devils made their way to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday for Duke’s matchup against Notre Dame.
The team made sure not to disappoint its fellow members of The Brotherhood.
In front of a packed crowd that included Zion Williamson, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook among others, the seventh-ranked Blue Devils took down the Fighting Irish 94-60. Vernon Carey Jr. and Tre Jones led Duke with 21 and 19 points, respectively, but it was the combo play from two players infamously known for their inability to play well together that sparked the game-clinching run.
With 13 minutes remaining in the game and Duke already ahead 59-41, Alex O’Connell knocked down a trey. Less than a minute later, Joey Baker swished a three of his own. A few quiet minutes ensued before O’Connell and Baker fired in yet another sequence of back-to-back threes, stretching the Blue Devils’ edge to 72-44. Baker waved his arms to fire up the crowd, and the Crazies responded with perhaps the loudest Cameron has been all season.
"I thought the crowd was unbelievable," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And the energy. It's more like Cameron of old. Since we said we're going to be old-fashioned, this [was] like an old-fashioned Cameron game."
O’Connell finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor, with Baker adding eight points on 3-of-4 shooting as well. Overall, Duke shot 10-of-22 from beyond the arc, including a 7-of-14 mark in the second half.
"Well no-one's going to be able to shoot like that," Krzyzewski said of how his team can consistently shoot the way it did Saturday. "For that period of time, that was crazy. That's not coaching. How are you going to do that again? Basketball gods, will you let us do that again?"
But the Blue Devils’ sharpshooters weren't the only players to set off a dominating Duke spurt.
The start of the contest was unfamiliar territory in comparison to Duke’s recent matchups. Rather than one team breaking out ahead, whether that be the Blue Devils (22-3, 12-2 in the ACC) or their opponent, the game remained close in the early goings: Duke led just 20-19 with eight minutes left in the first half.
It was then that the Blue Devils went on their first run.
Wendell Moore Jr. started it off with a steal and beautiful pass to a cutting Jones to put Duke up three. Then Carey took over. The freshman big man scored seven straight points, capping off a 9-0 Duke run with his sixth triple of the season to put the Blue Devils ahead 29-19.
Carey hit his first six shots of the game and finished the first half with 16 points.
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"I mean, I was just playing," Carey said. "I wasn't really thinking. Coaches tell me to just play distinctive, so that's just what I felt like I was doing, and it just worked out well for me."
But Carey wasn’t the only big man who went to work Saturday.
Notre Dame (15-10, 6-8) entered the game with the most 3-pointers per game of any team in the ACC, though it was the Fighting Irish’s bigs who carried the team's offense. Senior forwards Juwan Durham and John Mooney combined for 40 of Notre Dame's 60 points, including 32 of its first 37 points.
Entering the season, Mooney was one of only two returning players from any of last year’s All-ACC teams, and he made sure his presence was felt in his last-ever game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Orlando, Fla., native finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Durham poured in 21 points of his own.
Meanwhile, Duke’s ferocious perimeter defense held Fighting Irish senior guard T.J. Gibbs scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting from the floor. Notre Dame finished 5-of-21 from three.
"Our goal was to take away as many 3-pointers as possible," Krzyzewski said. "And we did that."
The final few minutes saw the back of the Blue Devils' bench receive action for the first time in a while, with Justin Robinson adding two points and a block and Mike Buckmire scoring his first two points of the season as well.
With Louisville's loss to Clemson Saturday afternoon, the win also moves Duke into sole possession of first place in the ACC regular season standings.
Next, the Blue Devils travel to N.C. State to take on the Wolfpack Wednesday at 9 p.m., with the team still in search of its first ACC regular season crown since 2010 and first outright regular season title since 2006.
"The home crowd, that combination, the music was just right," Krzyzewski said of Saturday's blowout win. "The conductor, the music and then all of a sudden the dancing was terrific."