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Duke men's basketball unable to contain Notre Dame in putrid defensive performance

Duke struggled with communication on the defensive end all game.
Duke struggled with communication on the defensive end all game.

In another nail-biting loss, a trend is starting to appear for this year’s Blue Devils.

Despite shooting 52.2% from the field and hitting 10 3-pointers, Duke couldn't contain Notre Dame—specifically junior guard Cormac Ryan—on the other end of the floor. The Fighting Irish took down the Blue Devils 93-89 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, with small lineups and stellar ball movement resulting in wide open jump shots from nearly every spot on the court. 

“Notre Dame’s a very unconventional team,” Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr. said. “They go for the three first...there’s not many teams out there like that. They’re good at what they do.” 

Based on the box score, this may seem like a classic example of purely unguardable offense at work. And there's no question that Notre Dame was terrific in every aspect on that end, especially when you also consider that the Fighting Irish shot 18-for-20 from the charity stripe and only committed seven turnovers. 

But the Blue Devils were just completely out of sorts defensively all game long, an issue that was on full display in the final five minutes, with the home team simply unable to get a crucial stop. 

“We’re not doing a good job of defending the three and we’re putting teams on the line,” Moore said. “Like I said the other day, this team—I don’t know how many free throws they missed but it wasn’t very many, and they got a lot of threes which is what they want."

Duke’s performance on the defensive end likely made basketball purists change the channel. The Blue Devils couldn't defend high ball screens and their rotations were in utter disarray, with Notre Dame making them pay constantly. The Fighting Irish shot 44% from distance and assisted on half of their baskets.

Ryan, who was guarded by Moore throughout the afternoon, particularly impressed. The Stanford transfer hit shots off screens, attacked the rim with authority and moved without the ball extremely well throughout the afternoon.

“We overhelped. He put the ball on the floor well, which he can do but he’s more of a shooter, but he got by us,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t control him on the dribble.”

The Blue Devils giving up points in bunches isn't a new development, either. Since blowing out Clemson in Cameron Indoor Stadium less than two weeks ago, the Blue Devils have been woeful defensively in their three consecutive losses to Miami, North Carolina and now Notre Dame. Each time, Duke wasted a fairly impressive offensive performance with a dreadful defensive showing.

The Blue Devils are now 4-7 in games decided by 10 points or less, yet another indication that this season is just not going according to plan. Where Duke goes from here remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure—it all starts with the end of the floor that was defined Tuesday by mix-ups and deficiencies instead of floor slaps and dominance. 

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