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Duke men's basketball set to take on Notre Dame in need of a midseason spark

Jalen Johnson missed the Blue Devils' first matchup with Notre Dame while recovering from a foot injury.
Jalen Johnson missed the Blue Devils' first matchup with Notre Dame while recovering from a foot injury.

Just three days removed from a deflating loss to their archrivals, the Blue Devils have to get right up off the mat for the next round.

Duke faces off against Notre Dame at 4:30 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday, the two programs' second meeting this season.

While the chatter surrounding the the possibility of the Blue Devils missing their first NCAA tournament since 1995 persists among fans and the media, any whiff of a reference to postseason destinations has remained out of the Duke locker room. 

“I think to plan ahead during this season is not a good idea," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Just to keep your eyes on the road and just try to be as good as you possibly can be."

Duke (7-7, 5-5 in the ACC) has some good memories playing against the Fighting Irish this season. Back on Dec. 16, the Blue Devils had four players—including three freshmen—score in double figures en route to a 75-65 victory in South Bend, Ind. Now, Notre Dame (7-10, 4-7) travels to Durham in the midst of four wins in its previous six games, easily the best stretch of the year for head coach Mike Brey and company. 

The Fighting Irish are led in minutes and points per outing, albeit in a different order, by juniors Nate Laszewski, Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin. The trio presents a clear experience contrast to the Blue Devils, who feature a sophomore and two freshmen as their three leading scorers.

Goodwin shined in the teams’ prior meeting, putting up 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor and 4-of-6 from three to keep the Fighting Irish afloat for the majority of the night. The Blue Devils will need stout perimeter defense to prevent Goodwin from finding daylight this time around.

One aspect of Tuesday's game that will differ from when Duke traveled to South Bend is the presence of Jalen Johnson, who was unavailable for action against the Fighting Irish back in December while recovering from a foot injury. Since then, though, the Milwaukee native has bounced back from that setback, with his progress on the court being a welcome sign for the coaching staff. 

“It really hurt him to miss that much amount of time…just to learn about the physicality of the game and just how hard it is,” Krzyzewski said. “Especially because he’s guarding big guys.”

Notre Dame may sit 12th in the ACC standings, but make no mistake, the Fighting Irish are an unselfish, efficient team, as evidenced by their 15.2 assists per game and 38.7% mark from distance. Duke must shore up its on-ball pressure and closeouts to secure the victory and avoid a similar fate to last week’s gut-wrenching losses against Miami and North Carolina.

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