Irish expose Blue Devils' weaknesses

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
7:47
PM ET


Mike Brey did it again.

The Notre Dame coach seems to have a knack for reinventing on the fly, and the Fighting Irish proved it Saturday with a stunning 79-77 win over No. 7 Duke. Notre Dame is now 2-0 without leading scorer Jerian Grant, who left school due to an academic violation.

[+] EnlargePat Connaughton
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsPat Connaughton and Notre Dame were able to score inside points at will against Duke.
Unlike their loss to Ohio State, in which they squandered an eight-point lead in less than a minute, the Irish held on for a marquee victory. Notre Dame was expected to add to the ACC’s depth this season, and, after looking questionable during nonconference play, its victory shows there is hope yet.

Brey’s group also did something no one else has been able to do this season -- stop Jabari Parker.

The Irish proved the freshman forward from Chicago is human after all, by consistently changing up defenses and running double-teams at Parker when he got the ball in the post.

Parker finally looked like a freshman, going 2-of-10 from the floor and finishing with a season-low seven points. It marked the first game this season that Parker, who averages 21.4 points, did not reach double figures in scoring.

The Blue Devils already rely on perimeter shooting -- including from Andre Dawkins and Quinn Cook -- but Notre Dame’s zone defense turned them almost exclusively into a jump-shooting team.

That allowed the Irish to rally from a 10-point deficit with a 20-4 run.

Parker, who was benched for the remaining 3 minutes, 35 seconds of the game, played only 24 minutes, about six under his average -- presumably because he was also ineffective on defense. He got schooled by Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman, who scored 14 points and had eight rebounds. And Parker was later posterized by Pat Connaughton when he was a second late with his weakside rotation.

Parker was far from the only Duke player who struggled defensively.

Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins scored 19 points and had 11 assists, and could get to the rim whenever he wanted.

The Irish made up for Grant’s absence by pounding the ball inside almost at will against the Blue Devils, whose streak of 122 consecutive weeks in the top 10 might be a thing of the past come Monday.

Duke didn’t make any of the plays it typically makes in tough games. Rodney Hood, who scored a game-high 27 points, drove too deep in the lane with 9 seconds left and left his feet with nowhere to throw. Hood didn’t get a shot off, and his turnover allowed the Irish to make it a two-possession game.

The loss was Duke’s first in an ACC opener in seven seasons and it should be a concern moving forward. The Blue Devils’ thin frontcourt is recognized as their Achilles’ heel -- and the Irish took advantage of it, outscoring Duke 44-16 in the paint.

Notre Dame, which isn’t known for having a great frontcourt, exploited Duke inside and shot 53 percent from the floor. In the process, the Irish probably showed a lot more teams in the ACC that the Blue Devils are vulnerable.

C.L. Brown | email

College Basketball

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