SOUTH BEND, Ind. From the brink of despair two days earlier, No. 21 Duke appeared to right its season with another gutty win on Monday night.
The Blue Devils built a double-digit halftime lead and held off surge after surge from No. 20 Notre Dame to post an 84-74 ACC basketball win at Purcell Pavilion.
After rallying from 10 points down in the final four minutes to beat Wake Forest, 85-83, on Saturday, Duke (17-5, 5-4 ACC) tacked on another ACC road win to reach the halfway point of the league schedule a game above. 500.
“It feels good to get some wins under our belt,” said Duke junior guard Grayson Allen, who led the Blue Devils with 21 points. “We need to keep stringing them along. I think we showed maturity coming in here and playing well from the start coming off that win. We need to keep doing that.”
Freshman Jayson Tatum played a key role in the win as well, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. The balanced Blue Devils also received 16 points each from Matt Jones and Luke Kennard.
“We found ways to step up and make plays,” Duke acting head coach Jeff Capel said. “One of the most beautiful things about it was you didn’t know who was doing it. You just knew Duke was scoring.”
The Blue Devils have now gone 4-3 since Capel took over the head coaching duties following Mike Krzyzewski’s Jan. 6 back surgery. Krzyzewski’s doctors anticipated his recovery time would be up to four weeks, meaning he could return when Duke plays Pittsburgh at home on Saturday (1 p.m., WNCN).
No matter who is coaching them, the Blue Devils believe Monday’s win further cements that they’ve turned a corner on a season that appeared to be slipping away.
“We need to keep working in practice like we have been and keep this going,” Allen said.
Notre Dame (17-6, 6-4) lost its third consecutive game despite V.J. Beachem scoring 20 points and Bonzie Colson adding 17. The Irish nearly erased a 12-point halftime deficit by hitting 15 of its first 20 second-half shots.
But Duke held on despite Kennard and senior forward Amile Jefferson fouling out in the final minutes.
Freshman center Harry Giles, who had committed four fouls over his first four minutes of spotty play Monday night, rebounded an Allen miss to score. He added two free throws as Duke extended a 70-64 lead to 74-64 with 2:29 to play.
“Harry was terrific down the stretch as he was against Wake Forest,” Capel said. “He missed one that was a big one, and I thought maybe that could have sunk him, and it could have sunk us. But he came back, and he made an even better finish the next time. It was stronger and tougher. He stepped up and made two huge free throws for us.”
Notre Dame missed its final 10 shots of the first half and, after shooting just 26 percent over the first 20 minutes, trailed 37-25.
But the Irish regained their shooting touch in the second half, scoring on 10 of their first 12 possessions.
But because Tatum scored nine points over the first eight minutes of the second half, Duke survived that push to still hold a 56-46 lead.
The Blue Devils held a 63-50 lead with 9:34 to play when they went cold. As Duke went six consecutive possessions without scoring, turning the ball over three times, the Irish made a 12-0 surge.
Colson scored inside, Rex Pflueger drove for a basket and added a free throw and Matt Farrell sank a 3-pointer from the left corner slicing Duke’s lead to 63-58.
The lead shrunk further when Colson scored over Jefferson with 7:05 left leaving Duke up 63-60.
At that point, Notre Dame had made 15 of its first 20 shots of the second half, a 75 percent clip.
Colson’s basket inside with 6:22 left sliced Duke’s lead to 63-62.
But the Blue Devils righted themselves to protect their lead once again.
Allen ended Duke’s four-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer from the corner for a 66-62 lead. After a Colson miss, Allen sank a jumper from the free throw line for a 68-62 Duke lead.
After a Farrell free throw for Notre Dame, Tatum’s turnaround baby hook in the lane put Duke up 70-63 with 4:03 to play.
With the Irish in the midst of missing six consecutive field-goal tries, Duke limited them to one shot.
Giles scored his rebound basket and added two free throws to give Duke a 74-64 lead with 2:29 left.
“We are growing up,” Capel said. “We are becoming more together.”