Coming into Wednesday’s contest, the Blue Devils were seemingly down on their luck. After a trip down Tobacco Road ended in tragedy Saturday evening, Duke needed a big win to bounce back in conference play.
With the Fighting Irish in town, the Blue Devils were handed the perfect opportunity. No. 9 Duke sent Notre Dame packing with a 71-53 victory, recovering from its defeat in Chapel Hill in style. Freshman guard Caleb Foster and sophomore Mark Mitchell led the way with 13 points each, while Markus Burton took the Irish on his back with 19 points of his own. The Blue Devils kick off their three-game home slate in just the right way — a notch in the win column.
"I just thought it was a great team effort, really good response," said head coach Jon Scheyer. "I thought it was a great win without necessarily playing our best on offense."
Coming into the second half after closing the first with a two-minute-and-six-second scoring drought, Duke (17-5, 8-3 in the ACC) kicked things off with an easy three from freshman guard Jared McCain. The Irish, however, continued to fight back, forcing sophomore center Kyle Filipowski to commit his third foul less than two minutes into the contest. It was no matter for the Westtown, N.Y., native, who made the turnaround jumper seconds later.
Notre Dame (7-16, 2-10) continued to test the Blue Devils, as Braeden Shrewsberry and Burton each drained threes. Duke struggled to respond, failing to score a field goal for a three-minute period, before McCain powered his way to the basket for the layup. Filipowski did his work on the other end with a block, forcing the Irish to go on a 0-for-4 field-goal stretch.
Burton, however, was starting to come into his own with two jumpers on back-to-back possessions. Sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor was there to stave off Notre Dame’s momentum with a layup in response. The Blue Devils found some magic of their own from there, as a steal from freshman forward Sean Stewart turned into a tip-in for Filipowski. Stewart got a bucket of his own as well to put Duke up 54-41.
"Sean, I thought tonight, he just threw himself into competing," said Scheyer. "He's still developing his skill level and all that, but he's got a great competitive edge."
Foster got in on the action at that point, stealing the ball from Burton before getting the dunk on the other end. After the media timeout, Stewart got yet another steal for the Blue Devils and forced the Irish to commit their fourth turnover in a near-four-minute span. As Notre Dame went on a scoring drought, Duke was heating up with a 7-0 run. However, the Irish continued to make things uncomfortable for the Blue Devils as they forced Filipowski to rack up a fourth foul with just under eight minutes to play. Graduate center Ryan Young subbed in for him but got into foul trouble seconds after entering the contest. The Irish, however, were in the same boat as Tae Davis fouled out with 5:46 left to play.
The Blue Devils remained firmly in the driver’s seat, but Notre Dame continued to fight. With 1:15 remaining in the game, Shrewsberry faced off against McCain and fouled the freshman guard. After a review, Shrewsberry was assessed a flagrant-1 foul. Despite the opportunity, McCain missed both his free throw chances.
The game started out close — for all of two minutes. Despite winning the tip, Duke kicked off its offense with a Filipowski turnover as the sophomore center tried to muscle his way to the basket, only for the ball to go out of bounds. As a result, Notre Dame struck first with a three from Shrewsberry as the shot clock rapidly dwindled. Senior guard Jeremy Roach responded in kind with a triple of his own on the other end seconds later.
Then, the floodgates opened. Going on a 17-0 run that lasted more than eight minutes, Duke looked sharp on the offensive end. McCain was anywhere and everywhere for the Blue Devils, as he put back a jumper before stealing the ball from Shrewsberry and racing down the floor for a layup. He was joined in his heroics by Foster, who put back two buckets. A layup by Mitchell sent Duke into the first media timeout up by four.
"I think we came out...we jumped out on them and set the tone from the beginning," said Mitchell.
Defensively, the Blue Devils were just as locked in, earning three steals before five minutes had passed. They continued to force Notre Dame to cough up the ball while nabbing 13 defensive rebounds in the first half. The stringency on defense allowed Duke to continue to capitalize offensively as it dug a deeper hole for the Irish.
Before 10 minutes were up, the Blue Devils’ firepower was evident on both ends of the floor thanks to Stewart. The Windermere, Fla., native came up with a big-time block against J.R. Konieczny before hustling down the floor. Foster lobbed the ball up for Stewart and he emphatically slammed it down to put Duke up 17-5.
"We just had guys making plays...Sean's block and dunk...obviously, that stands out," said Young.
With 9:48 left in the half, the Fighting Irish finally punched back off a layup from Kebba Njie. From that moment, the contest started to look a bit more competitive. The Blue Devils committed five turnovers as Notre Dame began to chip away at Duke’s lead. Both Shrewsberry and Burton drained triples within seconds of each other to cut their team’s way into the contest at 22-13.
The Blue Devils seemed to falter as the half came to a close, but managed to maintain their lead. However, Duke went into the locker room on a semi-sour note as Shrewsberry took a last-second three. A whistle blew, and a foul was charged to Foster. The State College, Pa., native made two of his three attempts to reduce the Blue Devils to an eight-point lead.
Duke will look to extend its win streak as it prepares to take on Boston College at home Saturday.
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Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.