The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a tremendous start to their ACC campaign that included big wins against Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
However, the Irish have run into a little bit of a dry spell, losing their last three games to Virginia, Georgia Tech at the buzzer, and now the Duke Blue Devils.
Notre Dame has to suffered to 6-4 in conference play and have dropped to fifth place in the ACC standings after a long stint in first place. However, with the ACC as deep as it is, the Irish were bound to lose a few games.
In the last few seasons, the Fighting Irish have been victorious in their series with the Blue Devils, winning both games last season, and winning two out of the three games the season before that, including a huge win to advance to the ACC conference championships in which they went on to win for the first time in program history.
Duke currently sits at 6th in the ACC, losing to Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and an early season two point loss to the Kansas Jaw Hawks. On the other hand, they have destroyed Georgia Tech, beaten a struggling Michigan State team as well as nationally ranked Florida.
One of the nations most scrutinized players, Grayson Allen has been notorious for his unsportsmanlike behaviour on his opponents. The Duke guard is constantly the centre of attention when it comes to college basketball as every game seems to have a new incident of him kicking or knocking down a player. The fans in South Bend experienced it first hand, and Mike Brey was not pleased.
Notre Dame and Duke were neck in neck for most of the first half until the Blue Devils started to build a lead late in the first half.
The Blue Devils went on a 9-2 run with over four minutes left, extending their lead and later held the Irish to 25 points for the remainder of the half after Matt Farrell hit both free throws at the three minute mark.
Duke led the Irish at half time 37-25 after holding the ‘Golden Domers’ to 26.9% shooting from the field and 20% from three point range, while they themselves shot above 50% in both areas.
It was not until five minutes into the second half where Notre Dame’s Head Coach Mike received a technical foul for his outrage at the officials for their lack of a call on the incident Grayson Allen and Temple Gibbs had.
It appears as though Grayson Allen stomped on Temple Gibbs’ foot and pushed him down. But that is open to interpretation. Regardless, Coach Brey was not pleased with the lack of a call and Notre Dame paid the price for it.
Notre Dame shot better in the second half than they did in the first, going 17 for 30 from the field and four for 11 from three point territory.
The Fighting Irish were within five with a little over four minutes left but Duke kept being Duke and would answer back whenever the Irish would find the hoop.
Duke would go on to give Notre Dame their third straight loss, winning 84-74 in South Bend.
VJ Beachem led the Irish with 20 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks, shooting 50% from the field.
Bonzie Colson was one away from another double-double scoring 17 points and grabbing nine boards while Matt Farrell dropped 11 points, dished out four assists and committed three steals.
Steve Vasturia was not himself yet again, going one for nine from the field and only registering seven points and four assists.
Notre Dame saw great production from their two prominent bench players in Temple Gibbs and Rex Pflueger with the freshman dropping 12 points, making him the fourth Irish player to register double digit points, and Rex adding seven points, four rebounds and two assists.
What’s alarming is the lack of production the Irish are consistently seeing in the post position. Notre Dame’s post players Martinas Geben and Austin Torres have only registered four points combined in the last three games. The Irish are relying too heavily on Bonzie Colson to work his magic in the paint as well as Vasturia, Farrell and Beachem to hit their shots in order to take opponents out of the game. Head Coach Mike Brey will need to work on the Irish’s post game in order to balance their attack on offence.
Notre Dame will need to regroup once again as the North Carolina Tar Heels will host the Irish in Chapel Hill, N.C. at the Smith Centre on Saturday February 4th at 6 PM. The game will broadcast live on ESPN.
The Tar Heels beat the Irish two out of the three times they faced each other last season, ending Notre Dame’s tournament run in the Elite Eight.
North Carolina has won against some prominent opponents in Florida State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin while only losing to national powerhouse Kentucky by three points.
The Tar Heels are seated at the top of the ACC and are led by Junior Justin Jackson who averages 18.7 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game.
– R. Scarfone