NOTRE DAME, Ind. — In order to win against Duke, a program he knows better than most, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey knew what his team needed to do.
“We were going to have to defend to probably win the game, and we did that enough,” said Brey, an assistant under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 1987-95, after the Fighting Irish’s 79-77 win Saturday. “It wasn’t going to be easy getting out of here against them.”
Notre Dame’s defensive plan involved multiple looks. The Irish opened in a 2-3 zone, and Duke’s Rodney Hood missed a 3.
On the next Duke possession where Notre Dame had time to set its defense, though, the Irish played man-to-man, and that ended in a Jabari Parker miss.
All that was part of Brey’s initial plan: zone after made shots, man-to-man after misses.
“We kind of faked our way through it in the first half,” Brey said.
Notre Dame did everything it wanted in the first half, executing its defensive game plan and using its size advantage on the offensive end to the tune of 22 points in the paint (62.9 percent of their first-half total). Despite all that, Duke went into the break with a 37-35 lead, primarily for one reason: 3-point shooting.
In the opening 20 minutes, five Duke players hit at least one 3-pointer, and the Blue Devils finished 8-of-16 (50 percent) from long range. That put pressure on Notre Dame’s zone, but Brey didn’t deviate from the plan – yet.
In the second half, when Andre Dawkins hit a 3 – Duke’s 12th of the game – with 11 minutes, 35 seconds remaining to give Duke a 60-50 lead, Brey called timeout shortly thereafter. He took out his center and inserted Steve Vasturia, a 6-foot-6 guard.
It was the small lineup, with four guards, and man-to-man defense with an emphasis on switching off of Duke ball screens that keyed the 20-4 Notre Dame run that ultimately buried the Blue Devils. Duke didn’t make another 3 the rest of the game.
Admittedly, Notre Dame’s move to man-to-man for an extended period wouldn’t have worked if Hood and Parker were playing their best basketball. The Irish defense, however, forced Parker into having the worst game of his young collegiate career: a 2-for-10 effort from the field, with an air ball, blocked shot and several other ugly misses, for seven points.
Parker was so ineffective on both ends of the court that Krzyzewski kept him on the bench for the final 3:35 of the game.
“We went through practice and knew that one of his favorite moves was the rocker step pull-up, and sometimes you can’t stop that,” Notre Dame guard Austin Burgett said of Parker. “But as long as you get a hand up, it’s distracting, and it’s hard to hit shots like that.”
“We had a lot of different guys on him,” Brey added, referring to Parker. “It was a great team awareness of him. I wish we could have used some of that on Hood, quite frankly, because he was unbelievable. The team job we did on Parker, a lot of different guys, helped because you wouldn’t be able to absorb two guys going off. Those two guys go off a lot when they win. Only one went off.”
Hood scored a game-high 27 points and shot 5-of-10 from 3-point range. The Blue Devils got 22 points from Quinn Cook (7-of-14 from the floor), but then Parker was next on the stat sheet with his seven points.
Duke shot 41.4 percent from the field (well below its season average of 50.2 percent) and forced no key defensive stops of its own. As a result, Brey became the first former Duke assistant to beat the master – Krzyzewski’s record against his proteges is now 18-1.
“Our first ACC game and to beat a program like Duke’s will always be a great memory for us starting off in Atlantic Coast Conference play,” Brey said. “It’s a historic day for us.”
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley