DURHAM, N.C. — This league road game against a ranked opponent in a tough atmosphere couldn’t end soon enough for Notre Dame.
Just let the second-half clock run as quickly as possible, get out of North Carolina and get back on track Monday back in Indiana.
Unable to make enough shots or get enough stops, the Irish really were never in it Saturday against No. 7 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr., scored 21 points and sophomore guard Tre Jones added 19 as the Blue Devils rolled to a 94-60 victory.
It was the most lopsided loss for Mike Brey in his 20 seasons at Notre Dame.
“That counted as one loss?” Brey asked afterward. “OK. That counted as one league loss? OK. OK. I can live with that.”
Notre Dame allowed a season high for points. The Irish shot 36.5 percent from the field, 23.8 percent from 3 (5-of-21) and committed 14 turnovers.
“They really guarded us,” Brey said. “We had a hard time getting any look because of their ball pressure.”
Senior power forward Juwan Durham scored a career-high 21 points. John Mooney added 19 points and nine rebounds. But the Irish guard trio of T.J. Gibbs (0 points), Prentiss Hubb (6) and Rex Pflueger (0) didn’t deliver nearly enough to make this one competitive. The three combined to go 2-for-20 from the field, 1-of-7 from 3.
“We couldn’t get anything going from our guards,” Brey said. “It was their ball pressure.”
After going for a season-high 18 points in Sunday’s win at Clemson, Pflueger has gone scoreless in losses to Virginia and to Duke. Irish freshman walk-on Elijah Morgan scored a career-high five points in five minutes.
At one point in the second half, with the Duke lead at 30 and more than half the half remaining, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was calling for his team to run off most of the shot clock and make the extra pass or two or three. It was that one-sided.
Brey said that by the 15-minute mark of the second half, his team was so out of it that they were “dead” trying to defend.
“For us, the last 10 minutes in timeouts, I was talking about Monday night,” Brey said of Notre Dame’s next game, at home, against North Carolina. “We gotta turn around mentally and get ready to play.”
The Irish had lost their previous six Atlantic Coast Conference games by 13 total points. That included their last two league road game losses, each by one point. Notre Dame has lost its last 20 games to ranked opponents dating back to the start of the 2017-18 season.
Duke led by as many as 35, easily the largest deficit of the season for Notre Dame.
“They get to 90 (points) so easily,” Brey said.
The Irish have lost six in a row to Duke in a series Notre Dame once dominated. Prior to the Blue Devils’ win streak, the Irish had won three in a row and five of six. That run included the program’s only win at Cameron Indoor Stadium — 95-91 — on Jan. 16, 2016.
Notre Dame (15-10; 6-8 ACC) is 3-5 on the road. Duke (22-3; 12-2) has won a league-best seven in a row.
Having scored at least 80 points for five straight games in one stretch, Notre Dame averaged only 55 points in its two previous road games. That included a season low 49 in Tuesday’s overtime loss at defending national champion Virginia.
That was a game that Brey said Friday that the Irish wanted to play at a slower tempo. On Saturday. He wanted his guys to get up and down in a hurry. Push tempo. Take some quick shots. Don’t play against Duke’s set defense. They also would change defenses, and tempo, as the game dictated. Regardless, Brey knew that for his team to have any chance Saturday, it would have to score. Maybe a lot. Maybe more than they’d had at any time this season.
The Irish opened by missing their first six 3-pointers before a corner 3 from Dane Goodwin brought the Irish within five, 20-15. Two buckets from Mooney in the lane made it a 7-0 run and 20-19 Duke lead. Nine unanswered points, including six from Carey, pushed Duke into a double-digit lead (29-19) for the first time.
Notre Dame led for the first 14 seconds. The Irish trailed by as many as 14 and were down 10 at half, in part because the starting guards struggled so much. Too much. The trio of Gibbs, Hubb and Pflueger combined to go 1-for-10 from the field, 0-for-5 from 3 and four turnovers. Durham and Mooney combined to score 27 of Notre Dame’s 32 in the first half.
Saturday was the first time the Irish sophomore core had played at Cameron. It was the first time for Durham, but it was hard to tell. Durham was solid in the opening few minutes. He scored eight of Notre Dame’s first 10 and seemed like the only one in blue and gold who was confident looking at the rim.
Durham then picked up his second foul less than halfway through the first half, which forced him to the bench and the Irish to go small. He returned with five minutes remaining and the Irish down by 10. Durham delivered five more points for 13 in the first half.
Saturday’s game completed a stretch of three league road games in seven days for Notre Dame. The Irish traveling party was scheduled to return to Indiana around 9 p.m. Saturday night with one day of rest before an ESPN Big Monday home game against North Carolina.
Notre Dame lost, 76-65, at North Carolina to start the season. Brey and the Irish insisted they’re better than that night in Chapel Hill. Then Saturday happened.
NOTRE DAME (60): Durham 9-13 3-3 21, Mooney 9-16 0-1 19, Gibbs 0-7 0-0 0, Hubb 2-7 1-2 6, Pflueger 0-6 0-0 0, Goodwin 1-7 0-0 3, Laszewski 1-4 3-4 6, Djogo 0-1 0-0 0, Morgan 1-2 2-2 5. Totals 23-63 9-12 60.
DUKE (94): Hurt 5-9 0-0 12, Moore 0-5 2-2 2, Carey 8-10 4-5 21, Goldwire 4-5 0-0 9, Jones 9-13 0-0 19, O’Connell 5-12 0-0 12, DeLaurier 3-6 0-0 7, Baker 3-4 0-0 8, White 0-3 0-0 0, Robinson 1-1 0-0 2, Buckmire 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 39-69 6-7 94.
Halftime_Duke 42-32. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 5-21 (Morgan 1-1, Laszewski 1-3, Goodwin 1-4, Hubb 1-4, Mooney 1-4, Djogo 0-1, Gibbs 0-1, Pflueger 0-3), Duke 10-22 (Baker 2-3, Hurt 2-4, O’Connell 2-5, Carey 1-1, Goldwire 1-1, DeLaurier 1-2, Jones 1-2, Moore 0-2, White 0-2). Rebounds_Notre Dame 28 (Mooney 9), Duke 37 (Hurt 9). Assists_Notre Dame 14 (Gibbs 6), Duke 19 (Jones 6). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 11, Duke 15.