Going into tonight, Notre Dame had won 5 of 6 against Duke. The last time Duke had won at Notre Dame, 1995, the majority of writers for this site weren’t alive yet (including me).
Both streaks came to an end as #21 Duke took a big lead in the first half, then held off a #20 Notre Dame rally to win 84-74.
The Blue Devils (17-5, 5-4) were led by 21 points by Grayson Allen, with Jayson Tatum adding 19 points and 14 rebounds. The offense looked the most comfortable it had been since Coach Mike Krzyzewski went on leave for back surgery. Tatum in particular looked very comfortable letting the offense run through Allen or Luke Kennard, repressing his score first mentality. Both Kennard and Matt Jones finished with 16 points, with Jones shooting 5-6 from the field.
Duke used a hot start and better than normal defense to build a 37-25 halftime lead. Duke was able to extend that lead to 63-50 with 9:30 remaining. In spite of a Notre Dame rally and having both Kennard and Amile Jefferson foul out, Duke used 23-24 shooting from the foul line to preserve the lead and the win.
It was a frustrating game for the Fighting Irish (17-6, 6-4), who have now lost 4 of their last 5. The Fighting Irish went on a variety of runs to trim Duke’s lead, thanks to a unique five guard line up that gave Duke fits with it’s speed and shooting. V.J. Beachem led the Irish with 20 points, while Bonzi Colson added 17 points and 7 rebounds. While the Irish scored 12 straight points to cut Duke’s lead to 63-62 with 5:30 remaining, they ultimately could not hit their shots in the end and fell short.
The Blue Devils now wait until Saturday for their next game, a home battle against Pittsburgh. It could potentially be the first game back for Coach K, who was expected to be out all of January. With a more improved and cohesive team, the return of Coach K could vault Duke back to their title expectations.
For Notre Dame, they also get to wait until Saturday, but have to face #12 North Carolina on the road. For a Fighting Irish team that has been slipping after an overachieving hot start, this could make or break their chances to remain a top team in the ACC.