Rushed Reactions: #8 Notre Dame 77, #4 Duke 73

Posted by Walker Carey on January 29th, 2015

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Duke and Notre Dame in South Bend.

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Irish Eyes Were Smiling Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Jerian Grant proved that he is one of the best players in the country. The senior guard turned in an amazing performance on Wednesday night, finishing the game with game-highs in both points (23) and assists (12). His dozen assists also set a new career-high. None of those assists were more important than the one he threw to sophomore guard Steve Vasturia for an open three to put the Irish up by four with 22 seconds to play. Points and assists were not the only categories where Grant excelled, though, as he showcased his durability by playing all 40 minutes and picking up six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Notre Dame is now 20-2 on the season and 8-1 in ACC play, and the biggest reason for the team’s incredible start to the 2014-15 campaign has been the All-America play of the team’s senior leader. The Irish now expect to be an ACC contender for the rest of the season, and if Grant can continue his play at such a high level, that expectation will become a reality.
  2. This was an incredible college basketball game. There has been talk this season about how college basketball has been a bit unwatchable, but that was absolutely not the case on Wednesday night as Notre Dame and Duke completed one of the most entertaining games of the regular season. Swings in momentum came fast and furious. For example: Notre Dame led by seven at the 9:01 mark of the first half before Duke went on a big run to take a three-point lead into the half; Duke then led by 10 at the 10:58 mark of the second half before being outscored 22-8 the rest of the way. Another reason why Wednesday’s battle in South Bend was so entertaining was that two of the best players in college basketball turned in star performances. Jerian Grant’s stat-stuffing game was mentioned above and Duke freshman big man Jahlil Okafor also turned in a performance that has practically become the norm for him during his first year in Durham. The freshman finished the game with 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds. Sure, there are some nights where college basketball doesn’t put its best foot forward, but Wednesday night at Notre Dame, those nights seemed very distant.
  3. Duke was done in by missed opportunities. In his postgame remarks, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski lamented the fact that the Blue Devils missed out on many opportunities to put more points on the board. Those missed opportunities are evident with Duke’s second-chance points and numbers from the charity stripe. The Blue Devils had a 13-6 offensive rebounding advantage, but they were only able turn that into nine second chance points while Notre Dame finished with 13. The free throw line caused significant problems for Duke in the second half. After converting on 3-of-5 of their first half attempts, they were just 7-of-15 in the second half. Post players Okafor, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee combined to make just two of their combined 13 free throw attempts. Missed opportunities on the road in a raucous environment is usually a recipe for defeat and that old adage once again proved true on Wednesday.

Player of the Game. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. The Irish senior guard was the best player on the court. Period. He filled up the stat sheet with 23 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, and his leadership helped the Irish remain steady after falling behind by 10 in the second half. He turned in a number of ridiculous plays, such as the three he drained from halfway between the top of the key and half-court in the first half, and an off-balance jumper he hit to beat the shot clock with 1:07 to play (putting the Irish up 73-70). Grant has been a very good player throughout his Notre Dame career, but this season he has obviously taken his game to another level — possibly the NPOY level.

Jerian Grant Was NPOY Good in South Bend Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Jerian Grant Was NPOY Good in South Bend Wednesday Night (USA Today Images)

Quotable.

  • “It was a heck of a basketball game. I thought our guys played winning basketball and Notre Dame obviously also played winning basketball.” – Krzyzewski, acknowledging the high level at which Wednesday night’s game was played.
  • “That one absolutely lived up to the hype.” – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, noting that the game matched the hype for the battle between two top 10 teams.
  • “You cannot say enough about our two seniors [Grant and swingman Pat Connaughton]. Their leadership tonight willed us to that one.” – Brey, giving a lot of credit to his two seniors for guiding the Irish to their 20th victory.

Sights and Sounds. The environment at the Purcell Pavilion was fantastic all night. Just minutes after the gates opened at 6:30 PM EST for the tip an hour later, the Notre Dame student section was jam-packed. The students brought the noise all night and both coaches commented how great the crowd was after the game. A reason for this may have been that Notre Dame added five rows of standing room only spots in front of its student section, thus adding an even more raucous presence close to the floor.

Wild Card. Mike Brey was on staff under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke from 1987-95 and when they met to exchange pleasantries before the tip, you could definitely sense the respect they have for one another. However, with Notre Dame’s win on Wednesday night, Krzyzewski is now 19-2 all-time against his former assistants, with both of those losses coming against Brey.

What’s Next. Notre Dame hits the road where it will play at Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Duke’s tough road stretch wraps up Saturday night in Charlottesville where it will battle undefeated #2 Virginia.

WCarey (247 Posts)


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