ACC Basketball

It was a Duke-sized Drubbing

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came out to play, hitting two beautifully executed three-point plays to open up a 6-0 led. At that point, I can see my headline, “Irish Tame Crazies” or “Catholics Crusades to Victory” or ¬†something bad like that. Then the Blue Devils went on a run…a 43-7 run. That’s the run to end all runs. I mean, that’s the kind of run elite teams typically have to pay for against cupcakes in early November. You’re not suppose to go on a 43-7 run against a “soon to be former” top-10 team.

So what the hell just happened?

Someone wrote on Twitter that when Duke is hitting their shots, “they are nearly unbeatable.” Okay, but isn’t that true of anyone? To me, it’s all about the energy. When Duke plays with this kind of energy and passion, they are nearly unbeatable.

Energy means defense and for Duke on Saturday, yes they hit their buckets, but they were feeding off their defense like me at a Vegas buffet. They forced nine turnovers in the first half, but turnovers don’t tell the whole story.

The game plan from the Duke coaching staff was shut down Jerian Grant. Now I’m sure that’s every opponent’s strategy who faces Notre Dame. However, what Duke did was two-fold. First, they rotated defenders on him. This allowed whichever player that was on him to put forth all their energy to get in his face long before he even reached the three-point line.

Secondly, they simply doubled him when he made his move, disrupting the timing of the pick-n-roll. When he tried to drive into the lane, he found a second defender waiting for him. Even when Grant was able to still get through and get the pick-n-roll rolling, he often found himself out of position (sometimes leaving his feet too early, other times way too deep), thus when his teammate (typically Zach Auguste) received the pass, they wouldn’t receive the ball in the right spot and would need to kick the ball back out and start again.

In the first half, Grant was 0-3 from the floor, scoring just one point. Yet, for a brief moment there was the perfect opportunity for the Irish to avoid the avalanche.

With Duke up 17-9, Jahlil Okafor picked up a silly second foul with 12 minutes left in the first half. This is where good teams take advantage of an opponent’s misfortune. Unfortunately for the Irish, it just made Duke better. The Blue Devils would score on their next eight possessions, getting 12 points from their bench (Matt Jones scored eight (17 for the game), while Marshall Plumlee and Greyson Allen chipped in with four free throws.

By the time the first half horn went off, you felt like Notre Dame was lucky to be down just 26.

In the second half, the Irish made a concentrated effort to drive the ball inside, using both Grant and former McDonald’s All-American, Demetrius Jackson. The latter in particular started to cause problems, scoring twice and delivering a pair of assists, cutting Duke’s lead to 18 with 13:26 remaining on the clock.

Now I wasn’t in Duke’s huddle, but I can pretty much guess what Coach K said, “Winslow, get the f**king ball and driving to the f**king basket.

After that TV timeout, Duke went into Riverdance mode, stomping on any Irish hope with a 20-4 run that was started by Justise Winslow’s eight points in two minutes.

The rest of the game was just a Jahlil Okafor clinic on how to score in the post, finishing the day with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9-11 shooting.

For Notre Dame, the thing to remember is this, they already beat UNC on the road and the one thing they’ll learn in the ACC is that it is nearly impossible for any team to perform a road sweep at both Chapel Hill and Cameron. Yes, a 30-point defeat is brutal and it’s not going to help their already sagging RPI, but in the end, it’s a road loss to a top-five team. Sh*t happens. How they recover will be telling, because they have a tough one on the road Tuesday against up-and-coming Clemson.

For Duke, they have wins against Michigan State, Temple, Stanford, Wisconsin, Louisville, Virginia (these last three all on the road) and now Notre Dame. That’s an impressive resume that will probably earn them a number one seed (if they can avoid a late-season slip up). If only they could catch Virginia, but they won’t get a rematch at home with the Cavaliers (booo, ACC).

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Notre Dame’s Cupcakes Problem – ACC Basketball

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