GOSPEL OF MARK: Mitchell's double-double sends No. 14 Duke men's basketball past resilient Notre Dame

Mark Mitchell hangs on the rim after a dunk against Syracuse.
Mark Mitchell hangs on the rim after a dunk against Syracuse.

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—The first time the Blue Devils traveled away from Cameron Indoor for an ACC matchup — an ugly loss to Georgia Tech — they were sloppy and disjointed. This time around, it looked as though history may repeat itself, but No. 14 Duke was able to weather a rocky first half and pull away for a 67-59 win against Notre Dame inside Purcell Pavilion.

A strong first half from senior guard Jeremy Roach and an explosive second half from sophomore forward Mark Mitchell — who finished the game with a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double, the first of his career — were enough to overcome uncharacteristically sloppy play from the Blue Devils (11-3, 2-1 in the ACC) and lead them to a victory against the Fighting Irish.

“I thought we showed amazing toughness,” head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game. “The way we closed the first half, that's huge. And then the job that Mitchell did there, let me just tell you how proud I am of him. He's been working his butt off consistently… He really came through for us tonight in a big way, and [I’m] proud to get our first ACC road win and our second ACC win.” 

Duke was able to build a lead as large as eight at points early in the second half, but could not write Notre Dame (6-9, 1-3) out of things, and were leading by just three with under seven minutes to play. Then, Mitchell rattled home his second three of the game from the top of the key — doubling his season total for made 3-pointers.

But, as they did all game, the Fighting Irish came up with a response. Freshman guard Markus Burton danced around Mitchell and hit a tough midrange jumper to bring his team back within four and ignite the crowd.

This time around, it was sophomore center Kyle Filipowski who provided the answer. Despite struggling offensively all day — he finished just 2-for-12 from the field — Filipowski came through big late, as he finished through contact for a tough layup. 

Another make from Mitchell gave the Blue Devils a little more cushion, and after a tense Notre Dame possession, senior guard Jeremy Roach knocked down the free throws that secured the win.

A nine-point deficit turned into a two-point lead for Duke in the final 7:06 of the first half, largely because of a suffocating Blue Devil defense that sucked the air out of the Fighting Irish. From that 7:06 mark in the first until 17:04 in the second half, Notre Dame made just one field goal.

“Right around eight minutes, the TV timeout, all we talked about was winning those four minutes. Not to get ahead of ourselves, not to look behind us, just win those four minutes,” Scheyer said. “We won them, and then I asked them to win another four.”

One Blue Devil in particular came out of the gates in the second with the same urgency. After a 3-point try from Roach missed off the front rim, Mitchell corralled the offensive board and slammed home a dunk for an and-one. 

Including his two free throws to end the first half, Mitchell scored 16 straight points for the Blue Devils. A different Duke player (freshman guard Jared McCain) did not score until 11:02 in the second half.

“He's a guy, he's gonna find his openings,” Roach said of Mitchell’s game. “He's getting offensive rebounds, top-of-the-key threes. Just kind of doing a little bit of everything, [he] gets fouled. So, such a unique score, right. He really doesn't need a play run for him.”

In the middle of the run, the Fighting Irish seemed like they could seize momentum back with back-to-back threes from freshman guard Braeden Shrewsberry. But, after his second, Mitchell was able to respond with a deep ball of his own.

The game remained in the Blue Devils’ favor as the second half progressed, but they were unable to find a knockout blow. Even when shots finally started falling from outside for Duke, the Fighting Irish punched back.

With just under 10 minutes to play McCain and Filipowski hit back-to-back triples after going a combined 0-for-9 from deep to that point. Immediately, Shrewsberry hit another triple and Burton got three points the hard way on an and-one. 

Notre Dame flexed its defensive muscles from tipoff, as Duke struggled to get into a rhythm with the ball. The Fighting Irish applied pressure on the perimeter, staying tight to the Blue Devils’ guards and dissuading them from shooting.

Moreover, the aggressive defense forced Duke turnovers — an area of the game that the Blue Devils had excelled in entering the game. The Blue Devils turned the ball over ninetimes in the game’s first 20 minutes, yet they averaged just 9.1 per game this season heading into Saturday’s matchup.

The drawback of Notre Dame’s playstyle, though, was excessive personal fouls that allowed Duke to shoot eight first-half free throws. Production at the charity stripe and a 10-point first half from Roach somehow allowed the Blue Devils to go into halftime with a two-point lead despite a rocky opening 20 minutes.

The Blue Devils will face another road test Tuesday, as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.

Dom Fenoglio | Sports Managing Editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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