And one: Mitchell's career-high scoring, gritty performance lift Duke men's basketball past Notre Dame

Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell scored a career-high 23 points against Notre Dame.
Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell scored a career-high 23 points against Notre Dame.

After each Duke basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. The Blue Devils gutted out a 67-59 win over Notre Dame in their first road game of the new year, and the Blue Zone breaks down the contest:

One player: Mark Mitchell

Coming off his prior best performance of the season in a dominant win against Syracuse Tuesday, Mark Mitchell outdid himself in Saturday’s win against Notre Dame, posting not one but two career highs — 23 points and 14 rebounds. This game was the sophomore’s first career double-double, a memorable performance to say the least. The Kansas City, Kan., native had a very quiet first half, scoring just four points and shooting 0-of-3 from the field, but the second half was a different story. While Mitchell played a crucial role in the late stages of the game, it was his contributions at the start of the second half that gave the Blue Devils the boost they needed to be successful. 

Most notably, at the 11:02 mark in the second half, Mitchell had scored all 14 of Duke’s points, a remarkable feat for the Blue Devils’ fourth-highest scorer this season. Much of that was credited to the Blue Devils’ other star in the frontcourt, Kyle Filipowski, who didn’t have his most solid game offensively but had many crucial assists during important times of the game. One last thing of note is that Mitchell’s shooting improved dramatically this game as he shot an impressive 66.7% from the field and made both 3-point attempts and all of his free throw attempts. Over the past few games, Mitchell has improved in all aspects of his game and could be an important weapon in Duke’s star-powered offense. 

One word: Grit

The Blue Devils have been very successful when playing at home, but grinding out wins on the road seemed to be the Achilles heel for this team. Duke was battle-tested by a smothering Fighting Irish defense for most of the game, scoring just 67 points, the fewest of the season. However, it was its teamwork and defensive prowess that played a crucial role in prevailing. Defensively, the Blue Devils had an impressive nine steals and 30 defensive rebounds. Offensively, a notable aspect of the game was that Duke was able to move the ball much more efficiently than Notre Dame as they doubled the assists of the Irish. To put it simply, this was a strong team win — Mitchell and Jeremy Roach led the way in points scored, Filipowski led the team in assists and Jared McCain chipped in with some crucial 3-point shots that sparked the Blue Devils’ offense in the second half. In many of their prior road losses, the offense was much more stagnant and out of sync, but that seemed to improve in Saturday’s win. 

One stat: Two second-half turnovers

Throughout the entire game, turnovers played a major role in the outcome of the contest. In the first half, Duke tied its season average in turnovers with nine, allowing Notre Dame the opportunity to get several easy buckets in transition. In the second half, it only turned the ball over twice, and much of that was due to better ball movement. In the first half, the Blue Devils only had three total team assists, while in the second half, they had seven and were able to work better as a team. 

One of the major themes in Duke’s prior road losses was a lack of selflessness with the basketball, and it looked like this problem was going to hold again until the second half. The offense became more fluid during the game, and this is something the Blue Devils will need to continue in order to grind out more wins against tougher opponents as the season continues.


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