Dominant Duke way too much for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

DURHAM, N.C. – Body language up and down the Notre Dame bench – from up front where the assistants sat stone-faced to the back where the managers huddled silently – said it all Monday.

They all had seen this show before. They didn’t need to watch the final 10-plus minutes against No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium to know how it ended.

A big-time run from the home team was percolating. When it arrived, there was going to be little the Irish could do to stop it.

Spearheaded by a 28-4 burst that saw Notre Dame go nearly six minutes without a bucket, the Blue Devils ran away with this one, 88-66. Its Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak now at six, Notre Dame falls to 13-9, 3-6. It was the largest margin of defeat this season for the Irish.

Sophomore T.J. Gibbs led the Irish with 22 points. Sophomore John Mooney added 14.

“Another tough one,” Gibbs said with a sigh.

Just like less than 48 hours earlier back at home against Virginia Tech. And the previous Saturday at Clemson. Again earlier this month against Louisville and North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Except the Irish got deep into the second halves of those games with chances to win. Good chances.

Not so this night. The Blue Devils had another gear that the Irish simply couldn’t match.

“We hung for about 28 minutes but they eventually wore us down,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “They’re so gifted offensively. We’re still scratching and clawing and trying to figure it out.

“That run was amazing.”

The Irish got as close as six the final 12:19. But on the next possession, the one guy they wanted to take an open 3 – Trevon Duval – took it. He made it.

“Then the flood gates open,” Brey said.

Duval’s shot effectively ended it. The Blue Devils found their groove midway through the second half and led by as many as 30. They just kept shooting and scoring. The Irish just kept shooting and missing.

Knowing his team is playing so short-handed, Brey feared a run like that was eventually going to hit. It hit. It knocked the Irish back on their heels. And out. When it came, in as frenzied an atmosphere as the Irish will face all season, there were no more answers.

Thus the long looks on the bench. The long looks trudging toward the bus. The Irish are halfway through league play, and if something doesn’t change, they may not go better than their 3-6 showing on the back nine.

“We’ve just got to be better in these next nine games coming up,” Mooney said.

How?

“It’s the same story; we’re not playing bad,” Mooney said. “The last 10 (minutes) they just jumped on us. Just gotta stay positive and continue to work hard.”

There is hope. Two key guys who have been down with injuries – guard Matt Farrell and swingman D.J. Harvey – could be back for Saturday’s game back down this way but and over in Raleigh against North Carolina State. They’re needed. Desperately.

“Maybe we’ll have a few bodies back against N.C. State,” Brey said. “We could use a couple more bodies back.”

Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is 24-5 all-time against his former assistants. All five losses are to Brey, who spent nine seasons on the same sideline. There wouldn’t be a sixth.

Notre Dame led for all of eight seconds – all in the first half.

Weathering an early Duke run was key for Notre Dame as long as the Irish could hit some shots. Turns out they weathered the early burst, but couldn’t hit shots. Again. The Irish went one stretch where they missed eight in a row and 10 of 11. They were able to hang around despite being tossed in a 19-9 hole less than eight minutes in thanks to the perimeter play of Mooney.

Mooney snapped the early shooting struggles with one of his four 3s the first 13:09. Finding Mooney, mainly in the far corner, was Notre Dame’s best offensive option. That kept it close.

Mooney had 12 and Gibbs nine of Notre Dame’s first 25 points. Just over 13 minutes in and Mooney was three shy of his career high of 15 set 48 hours earlier. But Mooney went the final 7:31 without a basket and that hurt. He was the only buy in Notre Dame blue who could consistently make a shot.

“Pretty confident right now,” Mooney said.

Mooney made four of his five 3s in the first half. The rest of the Irish were 0-for-10.

Monday was the first matchup between the teams since they met in March at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship at Barclays Center. The Irish led by eight points with 11:35 before the Blue Devils roared back to win, in part because Irish power forward Bonzie Colson went down with a sprained right ankle.

Colson missed his eighth-straight game Monday while recovering from a broken left foot. He’ll be re-evaluated next week and is still not expected to be ready to play in a game until the last week of February.

Getting to North Carolina in league play has been good to the Irish the last three years. Prior to Monday, Notre Dame had won eight of its last 10 games on Tobacco Road (regular season and ACC tournaments) dating back to the 2015-16 season. That run included five-straight wins and six of the last seven. Monday was the first of four trips over the next four weeks to North Carolina.

For the first time in nine ACC games, the Irish fielded the same starting lineup in consecutive games. Sophomore guard Nikola Djogo made his second-straight start and the second of his career. Brey generally prefers to starts his older guys – like, say, graduate student Austin Torres – in league road venues. But Notre Dame needed to field a top five that had the potential to score.

Coming off Saturday’s second half, where that five helped the Irish score 48 points and shoot 51.6 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3, Brey was optimistic that the Irish could hang with the Devils.

They did. For stretches. But it was too much to ask and expect for a full 40. And in this place? Way too much.

“Wow,” Mooney said. “That was just a crazy atmosphere. That’s the loudest gym I’ve played in by far.”

Duke's Wendell Carter Jr. and Notre Dame's John Mooney (33) reach for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

No. 4 DUKE 88, NOTRE DAME 66

At Durham, N.C.

NOTRE DAME (13-9): Martinas Geben 3-7 2-2 8, John Mooney 5-9 0-0 14, Rex Pflueger 2-8 1-2 6, Nikola Djogo 4-12 1-1 10, T.J. Gibbs 6-16 9-10 22, Austin Torres 1-5 0-1 2, Elijah Burns 1-4 2-2 4, Matt Gregory 0-0 0-0 0, Liam Nelligan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-61 15-18 66.

 DUKE (19-3): Marvin Bagley 4-14 3-6 12, Wendell Carter 6-8 5-6 17, Grayson Allen 7-12 1-1 18, Gary Trent 8-16 0-0 22, Trevon Duval 4-8 3-3 12, Javin DeLaurier 1-1 0-0 2, Jack White 2-3 0-0 5, Justin Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, Marques Bolden 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Goldwire 0-0 0-0 0, Alex O'Connell 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 32-64 12-16 88.

Halftime--Duke 42-34. 3-Point Goals--Notre Dame 7-25 (Mooney 4-6, Pflueger 1-6, Djogo 1-6, Gibbs 1-6, Burns 0-1), Duke 12-20 (Trent 6-10, Allen 3-6, White 1-1, Duval 1-1, Bagley 1-2). Fouled Out--Mooney. Rebounds--Notre Dame 25 (Pflueger 6), Duke 41 (Trent 10). Assists--Notre Dame 13 (Gibbs 4), Duke 15 (Allen 8). Total Fouls--Notre Dame 12, Duke 14. A--9,314 (9,314).