Doesn’t matter that Duke’s not Duke this season, or that Cameron Indoor Stadium’s not as abnormal as normal.
Go into that building and beat that program, under any circumstances, let alone all the ones that Notre Dame hauled to town after its previous Atlantic Coast Conference road stop, says something.
Tuesday afternoon said a lot about the resiliency of Notre Dame, which trailed by 15 early in the first half and trailed by nine in the second but kept competing, kept making shots, kept delivering and kept believing.
All of it, and a career scoring day from Cormac Ryan (28 points), was enough to earn the Irish a 93-89 bounce-back road victory.
Ninety-three points against that program. In that building. That about says it all. Notre Dame now has won this season at Cameron Indoor Stadium and at Rupp Arena. Not many programs can say they’ve done that. This year, only one has.
“It’s awesome,” Ryan said of the road two-fer.
Winners of five of seven, Notre Dame improves to 8-10 overall, 5-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“To bounce back, it tells you really what our group is all about,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I’m really, really proud of how we bounced back.”
Bounced back from a “crushing” loss three days earlier at Georgia Tech. Back in the starting lineup for the first time in five games, Ryan erupted for a career-high 21 points in the first half. With the Blue Devils focused on Ryan in the second, more Irish got involved and the offense really got rolling.
“It’s not about me, it’s about we,” Ryan said.
“Cormac held it down for us in the first half,” said junior guard Prentiss Hubb.
Down by 15 less than seven minutes in, Notre Dame took its first lead, 63-62, on a Dane Goodwin transition 3 with 14:28 remaining. It started a stretch where there were 11 lead changes in just under six minutes. It was back and forth basically the rest of the way. You make a shot, they’ll make a shot. And so it went. It was serve and volley. Tennis, anyone?
Having a full house in Cameron might’ve helped the home team find some separation by making shots and getting stops. Instead, it was the Irish, who were able to push their advantage to three with a Juwan Durham basket, then to four on another Durham bucket. A Hubb 3 squeezed off near Greensboro, N.C., gave the Irish their largest lead, five points, with 38.3 seconds remaining.
It was a lot of Ryan in the first half and a lot of Hubb in the second. For all the criticism that the kid takes, go back and watch the last six minutes. It was Hubb scoring. It was Hubb assisting. It was Hubb leading. He finished with 15 points, eight assists and three rebounds.
“Nobody can close out like him,” Brey said. “He’s a fearless guy. He wants to make the big decisions and the big plays. He sensed it and kind of went for the jugular. That’s a little bit of an assassin that he is.”
Last time the Irish were in Cameron before Tuesday, they were beaten by 34 points. It was the most lopsided loss in Brey’s 21-year tenure. Coming off Saturday’s heartbreak in Atlanta, this one might’ve meant more to the former Duke assistant. He’ll never admit it, but this one has to feel good, given where this program’s seemingly been headed the last few years. Heck, even after starting 0-5 in league play.
“We’ve been on life support at least four times this season,” Brey said. “Every time you’re about ready to (give) last rites, we come off the mat. I’m very proud of the group.”
Looking to get Ryan going early after he passed up a possible game-winning shot in the closing seconds Saturday, Brey started the captain after a recent run as sixth man. Brey’s thinking was to get Ryan in an early gear. Great call. Ryan missed his first three shots before getting a couple of drives. He settled in and made his last eight shots of the half.
“It’s only a matter of time with him,” Brey said. “He’s just too good a player. He’s in a really good rhythm.”
For the second straight game against Duke, starting the game was a massive issue. First time around in December, Notre Dame tumbled into a double-digit deficit the first 6:55. Needing a good start Tuesday, the Irish fell behind by double digits the first 6:10. The Blue Devils made 11 of their first 15 shots and all four attempts from 3.
“They came out firing,” Brey said. “I don’t know if we were completely awake. We’ve learned to fight a lot more since December.”
Notre Dame scored 48 points and shot 57.1 percent from the field in the second half. Five Irish scored double figures. As for those stop-score defensive stats? Yeah, scrap those. This is an offensive group. This is an offensive-driven program. Always has been.
“Our offense was beautiful the whole game,” Brey said. “That’s a clinic, what we do on the offensive end.”
• NOTRE DAME 93, DUKE 89
At Durham, N.C.
NOTRE DAME (93): Durham 6-6 1-2 13, Laszewski 3-4 4-4 11, Goodwin 3-10 4-4 12, Hubb 5-12 2-2 15, Ryan 10-16 4-5 28, Wertz 3-7 0-0 7, Djogo 2-3 3-3 7. Totals 32-58 18-20 93.
DUKE (89): Hurt 5-10 2-2 13, Moore 9-16 4-4 24, Williams 4-7 0-1 8, Roach 7-12 0-0 16, Steward 4-8 0-0 10, Goldwire 2-4 0-0 4, Baker 1-5 0-0 3, Johnson 3-6 0-0 8, Coleman 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 36-69 7-8 89.
Halftime_Duke 50-45. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 11-25 (Ryan 4-7, Hubb 3-6, Goodwin 2-7, Laszewski 1-1, Wertz 1-3, Djogo 0-1), Duke 10-22 (Johnson 2-2, Roach 2-4, Steward 2-4, Moore 2-5, Baker 1-3, Hurt 1-4). Rebounds_Notre Dame 26 (Goodwin 7), Duke 30 (Moore 10). Assists_Notre Dame 16 (Hubb 8), Duke 16 (Goldwire 4). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 14, Duke 19.