After a tough week on the road, featuring losses to Miami and Virginia, the Blue Devils got a warm welcome back at home Tuesday.
Duke downed the Fighting Irish 68-64 in front of legendary former head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and because of a share-the-ball approach and a standout defensive performance, the Blue Devils were able to successfully fend off a Notre Dame comeback bid.
"You can point to anybody in the game tonight: they stepped up and made winning plays," head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. "But also, roles change based on who you have and who's in. So now, I think we're at a point where we're figuring that out more, and we're playing to our strengths and guys know what to expect from each other."
Over the course of the second half, the Fighting Irish closed the eight-point gap between the two teams from halftime, and it all came down to the final minute. Junior captain Jeremy Roach headed to the line for the Blue Devils (18-8, 9-6 in the ACC) but could only make one, meaning Duke only led by three. Then, with JJ Starling able to lay in the ball on the other end, Duke needed some late-game heroics to stay alive.
Freshman Mark Mitchell delivered those heroics, hitting a corner three with 12 seconds on the clock to extend Duke’s lead to two possessions and four points at 66-62. While Ven-Allen Lubin made the layup on the other end, a foul on Tyrese Proctor gave the Aussie a chance to keep Duke a possession ahead with three seconds on the clock. He made both, sealing the win for the Blue Devils.
"Every day, [Mitchell] gets 100 corner threes in. And he works religiously on shooting before and after practice," Scheyer said. "So, to come back in late—they plug off of him in the corner, Jeremy kicks it to him—that's a big-time shot."
By the end of the game, eight Blue Devils had found their way onto the scoreboard, while only seven members of the Fighting Irish even saw the court. It made sense why: Duke was not without its mistakes, but as a whole, it utilized rapid ball movement and quick screens to pick apart Notre Dame’s defense. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish (10-16, 2-13) struggled to break through Duke’s pressure at the arc and were forced to rely on isolated drives to the basket with just seconds left on the shot clock. By the end of the game, the Blue Devils had 16 assists to Notre Dame’s six.
The only thing standing between Duke and a truly dominant win was an untimely slew of turnovers for the home team. Its eight team turnovers came at the hands of an opportunistic Notre Dame team; one of the only stats the Fighting Irish had an advantage in was steals, leading Duke 6-5.
Still, Notre Dame never gave in. Roach ended a 7-0 Fighting Irish run midway through the second half that had them within four of Duke, as he grabbed a high-flying offensive board and hit a turnaround jumper. Two made free throws from Kyle Filipowski and a Dereck Lively II putback slam later, and the Blue Devils were back out to a 10-point lead, but not without a comeback close call.
Dane Goodwin was the engine behind that comeback attempt. The Fighting Irish guard led all players with 25 points, almost single-handedly dragging his team into contention in the second half, scoring 19 in the final frame alone. The Blue Devils were hard-pressed to contain Goodwin’s surge, as he went 11-of-13 from the field with a diverse arsenal of jumpers, dribble drives and triples for good measure.
"He had that experience, that fight. He had it going early, and...I mean, he had it going pretty much all game," Roach said with a laugh. "He's a hell of a player. We knew that coming in."
The Fighting Irish entered Cameron Indoor Stadium third-to-last in the ACC, but that did not stop them from bringing their A-game, at least for much of the first half. Duke could not shake the Fighting Irish until the final minutes of the opening period, as the guard duo of Goodwin and Marcus Hammond drove into the paint with fervor despite their significant size disadvantage relative to the Blue Devil bigs waiting for them. They combined for 12 points in the half, and with an assist from multiple Blue Devil turnovers, they kept their team within reach of a lead.
However, that was not enough when faced with dominant first halves from Duke freshmen Dariq Whitehead and Filipowski. After the first scoreless performance of his career Saturday against Virginia, Filipowski, the likely ACC Freshman of the Year, had 10 points in the first half to go along with two rebounds and two assists. He continued his dominant performance in the second, finishing with 22 points, earning the team lead.
"It felt real good for my confidence and knowing what I'm capable of," Filipowski said of his performance. "I still was trying to find my teammates and ... trying to have the energy and have some impact, regardless of if I was scoring, ... and having fun with it. I think I did that today, and had the right mental mental fortitude for that."
Meanwhile, though Whitehead had a few flubs—his full-court pass got intercepted and he lost control of the ball during an alley-oop attempt—he hit three threes on three attempts. Magic of three, anyone? Though the freshman was held scoreless in the second, those early triples were crucial to Duke fending off Notre Dame’s late rally.
The Blue Devils headed into the locker room with a 31-23 lead that they would not give up all the way to the final buzzer. And thanks to significant advantages in 3-point percentage (30% to 9%), bench points (13-6) and points in the paint (18-10), that lead was a generous eight points.
All night, the crowd rewarded the Blue Devils' battle for victory with raucous cheers, and one member of that crowd was Krzyzewski. The winningest coach in college basketball history, like any other fan, watched from the baseline as Duke fought off the Fighting Irish, much to the delight of his former players on the court and behind the bench.
"For him to be here tonight, it's special for me. I've been in so many battles in games here with him right next to me," Scheyer said. "I don't know how he felt sitting over there instead of on the bench, but it just means a lot."
Next, Duke heads to Syracuse, N.Y., where it will take on the Orange Saturday evening.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.