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One word for Duke men's basketball against Notre Dame: Deflating

Sophomore Wendell Moore Jr. looks to have found his groove as of late, putting together four consecutive double-digit point games.
Sophomore Wendell Moore Jr. looks to have found his groove as of late, putting together four consecutive double-digit point games.

After Duke men's basketball's difficult loss to Notre Dame, the Blue Zone is here with our one-word recap of all the action:

One word: Deflating

At the start of the Blue Devils’ matchup with Notre Dame, they quickly amassed a sizable lead over the Fighting Irish, something we have not often seen this season. Both teams were on fire from the 3-point line, and combined for 11 3-pointers in the first half alone. However, despite Duke being known for falling into holes and then having to work hard to climb out, the opposite occurred when the Blue Devils gave away their hard-fought lead late in the second half.

In a rare offensive shootout for both sides, the Blue Devils simply could not defend the Fighting Irish, allowing Notre Dame to outscore them 48-39 in the second half. This season, Duke has played through several streaks of both winning and losing, but this most recent losing stretch appears to be the worst of the bunch. With an inability to win close games, the chance of Duke missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995 is getting more and more likely.

The current state of Duke’s season can only be described as deflating for all the Duke fans around the country.

One stat: 63% 3-point shooting in the first half

The first half of play was marked by the best overall offensive performance that Duke has seen this season. With a 63.6% mark from 3-point range and a 56.3% clip from the field, the Blue Devils scored 50 points to achieve a new season-high for points scored in a half.

Dynamic players like Wendell Moore Jr., DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach were playing at a high level, and things seemed to be going well for Duke. But that is only looking at one side of the ball.

Notre Dame also had a prolific shooting effort and matched Duke in scoring almost the entire night. At the half, the Fighting Irish trailed the Blue Devils by five, but in a game where the two teams combined for 95 first-half points, that lead fluctuated all game.

When the Blue Devils’ shooting cooled down from the 3-point line in the second half, the Irish mounted runs to cut into the lead of Duke and with four minutes remaining, Notre Dame pulled ahead to cap off the upset. Even with one of Duke’s best shooting nights this season, the Blue Devils could not put forth the defensive showing necessary to put the game out of reach.

One player: Wendell Moore

In Wendell Moore’s last four contests, he has averaged 17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 55% from the field. His veteran presence, which the Blue Devils sorely missed during his rough start, has allowed the team to look dangerous at times. 

He began the game 5-of-5 from the field, with two of them being threes, to help put Duke up by 12 points early in the game. A consistent Moore could spell trouble for any opponent, and the Fighting Irish had no answers for him early. However, a career night for Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan seemed to undermine an otherwise great performance.

Ryan scored a career-high 28 points and was Moore’s match Tuesday night. The junior guard led his team in scoring and Notre Dame let its entire offense flow through him. Ultimately, Duke did not have an answer for the red-hot Ryan. The more consistent play of Moore, as well as a bounceback game for Mathew Hurt, helped keep the game close, but eventually proved to not be enough. 

For Duke to have the possibility of making the NCAA tournament in March, it must continue to lean on the veteran presence of Moore to provide an edge it otherwise lacks.

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