Duke Basketball Grinds Out Ugly Win Over Notre Dame Late at Night

Coach K Court in Durham was the site of a gritty, low-scoring ACC battle late Wednesday night as the #9 Duke Blue Devils defeated the struggling Notre Dame Fighting Irish 71-53.

Following an effort-lacking loss at archrival North Carolina, first-year Duke head coach Jon Scheyer challenged his team to step up their intensity. And while the Blue Devils answered the bell somewhat with more energy and hustle against the Fighting Irish, it was far from a crisp, polished performance from the talented Duke squad.

Freshmen Stars Lead Duke

Freshmen Caleb Foster and Sean Stewart provided huge sparks off the bench for Duke, using their youthful athleticism to tilt the game in the Blue Devils’ favor. Foster poured in a team-high 13 points and dished out arguably the most electrifying assist of the season – a perfectly-placed alley-oop to the high-flying Stewart for a thunderous two-handed jam that brought the Cameron Crazies to their feet.

Mark Mitchell also played well with 13 points and Jared McCain scored 11, but overall it was an inconsistent offensive showing from Duke. Kyle Filipowski in particular struggled mightily, held scoreless in the first half while battling foul trouble. The talented big man finished with just 8 points on 2-9 shooting.

Duke Takes Control, Then Slips

The Blue Devils came flying out of the gates, using their trademark defensive intensity to fuel a 15-point lead, scoring 22 points in the first 10 minutes. But the energy and execution waned after that, and Duke scored just 11 points the rest of the half as Notre Dame clawed their way back into the game.

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Offensive rebounding was a big issue, as the much smaller Fighting Irish racked up 7 offensive boards in the first half alone. Duke also had trouble securing defensive rebounds at times. The Blue Devils hurt themselves as well by not scoring at all in the final two minutes before halftime and fouling a Notre Dame three-point shooter.

Second Half Surge for Duke

After a sloppy, inefficient opening 20 minutes, Duke reasserted control coming out of the locker room. With more energy on both ends, the Blue Devils slowly extended the lead behind the scoring punch provided by Foster and others.

The young but talented Duke squad showed plenty of room for improvement in securing the workmanlike win. But with Foster, Stewart, and other highly-touted prospects emerging as key contributors, the Blue Devils seem to have the tools to continue jelling and peaking at the right time.

Coach Scheyer will be looking for more consistency and fewer lulls from his team. But Duke avoided a letdown on a night when things didn’t click offensively, a sure sign of a dangerous squad with the capability to go far this March.

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