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Notre Dame Basketball

Forget last rites; Irish arise with comeback-win at Duke

February 9, 2021
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First-ever win in program history at Rupp Arena this season?

Sure.

Adding a win at Duke's fabled Cameron Indoor Stadium as well?

Why the hell not?

Overcoming a 15-point first-half deficit and as much as a nine-point second-half margin, Notre Dame rallied past the Blue Devils, 93-89, Tuesday afternoon.

“To bounce back, it tells you really what our group is all about,” Irish coach Mike Brey, who notched his sixth career win against Duke icon Mike Krzyzewski, said. “That was just heart-breaking the other night [in Saturday's loss at Georgia Tech]. And then you go on the road and you're hanging in there. I'm really proud of how we bounced back.

“The one thing I told them on Sunday, 'Forget the league record or resume or whatever the hell that means, you would have a chance to be a basketball team at Notre Dame that won at Kentucky and won at Duke. That ain't ever happened before, and I bet you it won't happen again. Certainly not while I'm alive.' It was a little bit of maybe a scalp to say, 'We've won in two blue-blood arenas.' We've been on life-support at least four times this season. And then every time you're just about ready for last rites, we come off the mat. I'm very proud of the group.”

Cormac Ryan led the Irish's revival; the Stanford transfer ignited the offense for Notre Dame (8-10, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference); Ryan had a career-best 28 points that included 21 of the Irish's 45 first-half points.

All five Notre Dame starters finished with double figures; Prentiss Hubb added 15 points and eight assists in 36 minutes.

“Cormac held us down in the first half, he had 21 points in the first half,” Hubb said. “He played really big. Me as the other lead guard, I had to step up and make plays for my teammates.”

While Ryan stepped in to take a pivotal late-game charge, Hubb also drained a shot-clock beating 3-pointer from several feet behind the left arc to help lift the Irish to victory.

“He was voted a captain; I think that's pretty damn powerful right there in how his teammates felt about him,” Brey said of Ryan. “And it's only a matter of time with him. He's just too good of a player. …

“We've seen that story before [from Hubb]. I think what he's done, he's learned to manage the game and use his weapons around him. But nobody can close out like him. He's a fearless guy, a big-time winner. He has in the past and certainly this afternoon, he wants to make the big decisions and the big plays. He's unafraid of the bright lights. … He sensed it and kind of went for the jugular. That's a little bit of an assassin that he is.”

As Duke (7-8, 5-6 ACC) constructed a double-digit lead in the game's first 10 minutes, strengthened on a 14-0 run, any type of Notre Dame marksmanship seemed far-fetched.

Yet it wasn't a singular, game-changing rally for the Irish; rather, they made key shots, were just effective enough on the glass and defensively, plus got multiple key deliveries from every player involved to secure the win that snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Blue Devils.

In addition to his 13 points, Juwan Durham had five rebounds and three blocked shots – all in the second half.

Nate Laszewski attempted only one 3-pointer, but he made that shot during the second-half rally at the six-minute mark as part of his 11 points.

The Irish also converted 18-for-20 at the free-throw line; the larger Blue Devils attempted just eight free throws and converted seven.

“Again, we've got an older group and they're very mature and they're very hard on themselves when they don't perform,” Brey said. “Coach doesn't need to mess with them. They have high standards for themselves. We were all stinging, for a long time. Probably until practice on Monday. Which was great, which was awesome. That's a good thing.

“I felt we would play really well today; when it started, I was like, 'God, I didn't expect it.' But to our credit, we came out of a little bit of a funk the first four minutes and competed our backsides off.”

Duke led 23-8 in the game's early moments and used a final-seconds triple for its 50-45 edge at the break. The Blue Devils got 24 points from Wendell Moore and 16 from Jeremy Roach.

But Notre Dame took its first lead on a 3 from Dane Goodwin, who finished with a dozen points, at the 14-minute, 28-second mark.

For the rest of the game, neither team was separated by more than three points until the Irish took a five-point lead with 21 seconds to play before they won by four.

Up next for Notre Dame is a Valentine's Day home clash with Miami; tip Sunday evening is 6 (ACC Network) inside Purcell Pavilion.

 
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