Notre Dame men's basketball: Big upset over Duke

TOM NOIE
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — With four guards running second-half circles around the nation’s seventh-ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams Saturday, a path from the foul line to the basket beckoned Notre Dame junior Pat Connaughton.

Connaughton quickly answered, getting to the rim with a dribble before delivering a thunderous tomahawk dunk over future NBA lottery pick Jabari Parker.

The Irish captain wasn’t done. With the floor still spread, the guards still moving and cutting, and the Devils guessing, Connaughton slid down the baseline off an Eric Atkins drive, took the senior’s pass and floated from the left side of the rim to the right before another one-handed hammer.

Purcell Pavilion went up for grabs.

It was that type of electric atmosphere and those types of hustle plays late that allowed Connaughton and unranked Notre Dame to roar back from a 10-point deficit the final 11 minutes for a 79-77 victory over perennial league power Duke.

“We found a lineup that worked for us and rode it out,” said Connaughton, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. “We knew this would be a great comeback win.”

When the buzzer sounded and victory was secure for a program that was reeling 14 days earlier after a last-second collapse against No. 3 Ohio State and the loss of leading scorer Jerian Grant to academics, Connaughton bounced happily off the floor, raised his right finger at and accepted props from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

“It’s an historic day for us,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “Our first ACC game, and to beat a program like Duke’s will always be a great memory for us.”

Notre Dame’s first ACC game was one to remember. The score was tied 10 times. There were nine lead changes. The Irish led by as many as six and trailed by as many as 10. A sellout crowd saw an Irish team that was so loose with the ball six days earlier against Canisius (16 turnovers) be really good with it Saturday.

The Irish committed six turnovers — three in each half, including only one (at the buzzer) the final 8:21 — and had 18 assists.

The Irish (10-4, 1-0 ACC) had been written off by basically everybody — How in the world would they ever survive the ACC? Would they even win a game? – but not Connaughton. Not with this group that believed it could go back to work and still find their way.

And then they did.

“I have confidence in this team,” Connaughton said. “I know what we’re capable of.”

Following his first dunk, which capped a 20-4 Irish run and gave Notre Dame a six-point lead (70-64) with 4:18 remaining, Connaughton was quickly cornered by one of the officials.

“The ref told me he didn’t know how I could get up there,” said Connaughton. “I said, ‘Hey, you haven’t watched enough (Irish) games.’”

Even down a half-dozen, Duke kept coming. A Quinn Cook drive made it a two-point game (70-68) with 2:47 remaining. Three Rasheed Sulaimon free throws made it a one-point game with 1:53 left. Duke (11-3, 0-1) got within one on two more occasions the final 1:03, but could never get past the Irish.

“We played winning basketball,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Today, it wasn’t good enough.”

A Garrick Sherman free throw made it 77-75 with 16.9 seconds left before Rodney Hood, driving hard toward the baseline, ventured too deep under the basket and fired the ball back out and into the hands of Irish freshman Demetrius Jackson, who was fouled and hit two free throws with 9.7 seconds left.

Krzyzewski would have preferred a timeout after the Sherman free throw, but he preferred Hood driving on Sherman more.

“We weren’t going to get a better possession than that,” Krzyzewski said. “You couldn’t draw it up better. I wouldn’t take back what happened.”

Needing to do something to slow the Blue Devils, who looked for a second-half stretch as if they would run away and hide behind Hood (who finished with a game-high 27 points), Brey went small.

With 11:18 remaining and the Irish down seven, out went Sherman for freshman Steve Vasturia. He joined guards Atkins, Connaughton and Jackson along with sophomore power forward Austin Burgett, who was flying around everywhere to go for a career-high five blocks.

That included one on Parker in the first half that he seemingly swatted with his elbow.

“It gets everybody going,” said the 6-foot-9 Burgett, who guessed his vertical leap is around 36-37 inches. “If it helps us get them going, I’ll do it.”

He did it.

The smaller lineup stayed until 1:29 remained, when Sherman spelled Burgett, then delivered three big points, including a flip shot to give the Irish a 76-73 led with 32.5 seconds remaining.

Having so many smaller guys running around helped out the Irish on both ends. Notre Dame was able to dig in and defend and get a stop, then two, then three. The Irish succeeded by staying in man defense and switching everything.

Following an Andre Dawkins 3, one of 12 for Duke, the Irish limited the visitors to one basket for an 8:08 stretch.

“We just tried to pick up the defensive pressure,” Jackson said. “When you play tough defense and play hard on the defensive end, that leads to a lot of things on the offensive end.”

Offensively, the Irish put the ball in the hands of their senior leader — Atkins, who finished with his fifth career double-double of 19 points, 11 assists. Surveying everything from the top of the key, he was able to make a play for himself or someone else.

“What makes me so dangerous in that situation is we have so many shooters around me,” Atkins said. “When the floor is that spaced, I can really do whatever I want.”

Parker was held to a season-low seven points on 2-of-10 shooting. He never was a factor and spent the final 3:35 on the bench.

“Sometimes kids don’t play well throughout the game,” Krzyzewski said. “He just wasn’t having a good game.”

Notre Dame gashed Duke for 44 points in the paint. Part of that was Sherman (14 points) but a chunk of it was the four-guard lineup that just kept moving. It wasn’t flawless, but it was enough to bump Notre Dame to a place many figured it would never visit this winter — the top of the league standings.

“This,” Connaughton said, “was a great win.”

And oh so needed, for so many reasons.

DUKE (11-3): Jabari Parker 2-10 2-4 7, Rodney Hood 8-17 6-6 27, Josh Hairston 1-1 0-0 2, Quinn Cook 7-14 5-5 22, Tyler Thornton 1-2 0-0 3, Rasheed Sulaimon 1-4 3-3 6, Amile Jefferson 2-5 0-1 4, Andre Dawkins 2-5 1-1 6, Marshall Plumlee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 17-20 77.

NOTRE DAME (10-4): Zach Auguste 3-6 0-0 6, Garrick Sherman 6-14 2-4 14, Eric Atkins 7-13 5-8 19, Demetrius Jackson 2-3 3-4 8, Pat Connaughton 6-9 2-2 16, V.J. Beachem 1-3 0-0 2, Austin Burgett 1-2 0-2 2, Tom Knight 1-2 1-4 3, Steve Vasturia 3-5 0-0 9. Totals 30-57 13-24 79.

Halftime — Duke 37-35. 3-Point Goals — Duke 12-28 (Hood 5-10, Cook 3-5, Sulaimon 1-2, Thornton 1-2, Dawkins 1-4, Parker 1-5), Notre Dame 6-12 (Vasturia 3-5, Connaughton 2-2, Jackson 1-1, Beachem 0-1, Atkins 0-3). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Duke 30 (Jefferson 9), Notre Dame 39 (Connaughton, Sherman 8). Assists — Duke 8 (Cook 4), Notre Dame 18 (Atkins 11). Total Fouls — Duke 19, Notre Dame 16. A — 9,149.

TNoie@SBTinfo.com

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Twitter: TNoie@NDInsider

Irish fans celebrate on the court following the 79-77 victory over Duke in the ACC conference opener on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame's Austin Burgett (20), right, blocks a shot by Duke's Jabari Parker (1) in the first half during the mens basketball game between Notre Dame and Duke on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN