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Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

By January 28, 2015April 20th, 2015No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (17-2, 4-2] vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-2, 7-1]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 • 7:30 PM • ESPN2 • South Bend, IN • Joyce Center

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke (17-2, 4-2) travels to South Bend to face Notre Dame (19-2, 7-1) Wednesday, January 28 at the Joyce Center. Tipoff is set for 7:32 p.m. with Dan Shulman (play-by-play) and Dick Vitale (analyst) calling the action for ESPN2. The Blue Devils enter the game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 66-14 when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Notre Dame is ranked No. 8 in both polls. Duke is 9-16 all-time against teams ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll. Duke has won 41 of its past 62 games when both teams have been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll. Mike Krzyzewski became the first coach in Division I men’s basketball history to record 1,000 career victories with Duke’s 77-68 win over St. John’s Sunday. Duke is 3-0 on the year against ranked opponents with all three contests occurring away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.


Notre Dame

Notre Dame (19-2, 7-1) will play host to Duke (17-2, 4-2) Wednesday in a key ACC clash. Tipoff is slated for 7:32 PM (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. This will be the first of two meetings in an 11-day span between the Fighting Irish and Blue Devils. The second showdown is slated for February 7 at Duke. Notre Dame is tied for second place in the ACC standings, while Duke is tied for fourth place. The Fighting Irish have won 15 of their last 16 games. Notre Dame is 5-1 in its last six home games against Associated Press top-10 teams. The Fighting Irish are 13-7 at home under head coach Mike Brey against teams ranked in the top-10 of the AP poll. Overall, Notre Dame is 5-6 in its last 11 showdowns with an AP top-10 foe. The Irish are 18-29 against teams ranked in the top-10 of the AP poll under Brey. It will be just the second top-10 matchup at Purcell Pavilion since the 1980-81 season. No. 9 Notre Dame defeated No. 7 Indiana, 68-64, on December 9, 1980.


Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was an assistant coach at Duke for eight seasons. Beginning in 1987-88, he was a part of the coaching staff that helped Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski take his teams to six NCAA Final Fours and four national title games while winning back-to-back national titles in 1991 and 1992.

2. Team Seasons Thus Far

Duke Blue Devils

In its last outing, Tyus Jones matched a season-high with 22 points and Jahlil Okafor added 17 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the year as Duke topped St. John’s 77-68 Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Duke closed the game on a 26-7 run over the final 8:30 of play to erase a 10-point deficit. Jones scored 11 points during the run to lead the Blue Devils to their 17th win. Quinn Cook knocked down four three-point field goals and finished with 17 points, while Amile Jefferson added 11 points. The Blue Devils limited St. John’s to two made field goals over the final 8:30 of the game to help Coach K secure his 1,000th career victory.


Game Notes

  • Duke started 17-2 during the 2012, 2004, and 1999 seasons (since 1996).
  • The win over St. John’s extended the Duke winning streak to three games.
  • Duke beat the spread by two points. That makes the 10th time this season the Blue Devils have beaten the spread.
  • The Blue Devils have won 90 percent of the time this season (9-1) after recording 18 or more free throws made.
  • Duke has won every game this season (12-0) when opponents record 10 or fewer free throws made.
  • Duke has won every game this season (11-0) after holding an opponent to under 26.7 percent three-point percentage.
  • This season Duke has won 92 percent of the time (11-1) when Jahlil Okafor has 17 points or more, 83 percent of the time (5-1) when Quinn Cook plays 38 minutes or more, and 100 percent of the time (5-0) when Tyus Jones has five field goals made or more.
  • Duke set a season low for blocks (1).
  • This is the first win of the season where the Blue Devils came back after being down at halftime.
  • The top two scorers (Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor) accounted for 50.6 percent of the points.
  • Tyus Jones has led the team in scoring in four out of 19 games this season.
  • Jahlil Okafor has led the team in rebounding in 12 out of 19 games this season.
  • This marks the fourth 20-point game of Tyus Jones’s career.
  • Tyus Jones has three straight double-digit point games.
  • Jahlil Okafor recorded the sixth double-digit rebound game of his career.
  • Jahlil Okafor has 19 straight double-digit point games.
  • Jahlil Okafor recorded a double-double. It was the sixth of his career.


Overall, several notable highlights, trends, and highlights continue to emerge as the season progresses:


Team Highlights

  • Duke has two wins over AP top 10 opponents this season. The Blue Devils have never won three road contests over top 10 foes in a season.
  • Duke is shooting 56.1 percent (78-of-139) in three games versus ranked opponents. Jahlil Okafor (22-of-28) and Amile Jefferson (11-of-14) lead the Blue Devils with matching .786 field goal percentages in those contests.
  • Duke has outrebounded its opponent in 17 of 19 games on the year and owns a +7.4 rebound margin. Michigan State and Louisville are the only teams to outrebound the Blue Devils this season.
  • Wednesday’s game marks Duke’s fifth road game in a seven-game stretch. The Blue Devils are 4-1 on the year in true road games.


Individual Player Highlights

  • Jahlil Okafor has scored in double figures in 19 straight games, the second-longest double-digit scoring streak by a freshman at Duke. Johnny Dawkins holds the top mark after scoring 10 or more points in the first 23 games of his career.
  • Quinn Cook is averaging a career-high 14.3 points per game while also posting career bests in field goal percentage (.448), three-point field goals (2.63 3PG) and free throw percentage (.952). He has scored in double figures 17 times on the year.
  • Jahlil Okafor has the highest field goal percentage (.671) in the NCAA among players attempting 10 or more shots per game. Okafor has shot over 70 percent from the field in 11 of Duke’s 19 games.
  • A freshman has led the Blue Devils in scoring in 14 of 19 games. Jahlil Okafor has paced the offensive attack eight times, while Tyus Jones (4) and Justise Winslow (2) have also led Duke in scoring multiple times. The rookie trio has also accounted for 12 of Duke’s 13 20-point games on the year (Okafor 7, Jones 4, and Winslow 1).
  • Amile Jefferson is averaging 13.0 points per game on 20-of-30 (.667) shooting from the field over the past four games. He currently ranks second in the Duke record books with a .616 (212-of-344) career field goal percentage.
  • Freshmen Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow have started all 19 games for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 54 times at Duke, including 27 times during the 1982-83 season. The trio combines to average 39.7 points, 16.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.
  • Quinn Cook has made at least one three-point field goal in each of the past 29 games. He is shooting 40.0 percent (72-of-180) from behind the arc in that stretch. Cook is fourth in the ACC in three-point field goals (2.56 3PG) and seventh in three-point percentage (.388) this season.
  • Jahlil Okafor (75) and Amile Jefferson (56) have combined for 131 of Duke’s 233 offensive rebounds. Okafor leads the ACC with 3.95 ORPG, while Jefferson is sixth at 2.95 ORPG.
  • Duke’s starting backcourt of Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones combines to shoot 90.7 percent (117-of-129) from the free throw line on the year. Over the past 10 contests, Cook is 27-of-28 (.964) and Jones is 46-of-49 (.939) from the charity stripe.
  • Tyus Jones is averaging a team-best 16.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game against ranked opponents. He is 13-of-21 (.619) from the field and 19-of-21 (.905) from the foul line in such contests.
  • Tyus Jones was named ACC Co-Rookie of the Week after averaging 22.0 points and 5.0 assists per game in wins over Pittsburgh and St. John’s


Notre Dame

In its last outing, Notre Dame had five players score in double-figures in Sunday’s 81-78 overtime victory at North Carolina State. North Carolina State led 42-30 at halftime. The 12-point margin was Notre Dame’s largest halftime deficit of the season. North Carolina State’s 42 first-half points were the

most allowed by the Irish in an opening half this season. Notre Dame’s largest deficit of the game was 18 points (40-22) with 3:36 left in the first half. It’s the largest comeback for the Irish since they overcame a 20-point margin (39-19) at Villanova on February 18, 2012, and won 74-70 in overtime. Notre Dame used seven players (a season-low total).
Game Notes

  • The win over NC State extended the Notre Dame winning streak to four games.
  • ND beat the spread by 1.5 points. That makes the 7th time this season the Fighting Irish have beaten the spread.
  • Notre Dame has played in three overtime games this season. Over the last five seasons, the Fighting Irish have played in 19 overtime games with a record of 15-4.
  • The Fighting Irish have won six close games this season (a win by five or fewer points). Since 2009, Notre Dame is 36-23 in close games.
  • The Fighting Irish have won every game this season (5-0) after recording 16 or more free throws made.
  • Notre Dame has won 88 percent of the time this season (7-1) after committing 10 or fewer turnovers.
  • ND has won every game this season (7-0) after holding an opponent to under 29.2 percent three-point percentage.
  • ND has won 90 percent of the time this season (9-1) when opponents record nine or fewer free throws made.
  • This season Notre Dame has won 94 percent of the time (15-1) when Zach Auguste has 10 points or more, 82 percent of the time (9-2) when Pat Connaughton plays 36 minutes or more, and 100 percent of the time (8-0) when Jerian Grant has seven field goals made or more.
  • The Fighting Irish have recorded more free throws made than their opponents for the past four games.
  • This is the fourth win of the season where the Fighting Irish came back after being down at halftime.
  • Jerian Grant recorded a team season high in free throws made with nine and free throws attempted with 11.
  • Jerian Grant accounted for 30.8 percent of the team’s points.
  • The top two rebounders (Zach Auguste and Pat Connaughton) accounted for 41.8 percent of the rebounds.
  • Jerian Grant has led the team in scoring in 10 out of 21 games this season.
  • Zach Auguste has led the team in rebounding in seven out of 21 games this season.
  • This marks the 21st 20-point game of Jerian Grant’s career.
  • Jerian Grant has four straight double-digit point games.
  • Demetrius Jackson has three straight double-digit point games.
  • Pat Connaughton has 10 straight double-digit point games.
  • This was the first foul out of the season for Pat Connaughton.
  • Zach Auguste recorded the fourth double-digit rebound game of his career.
  • Zach Auguste recorded a double-double. It was his third this season and fourth of his career.

Overall, several notable highlights, trends, and highlights continue to emerge as the season progresses:

Team Highlights

  • Notre Dame’s 19-2 record is the best 21-game start for the Fighting Irish since the 1973-74 team posted a 20-1 mark. • The 7-1 ACC record is Notre Dame’s best eight-game start in conference play (BIG EAST & ACC). • Notre Dame (19-2), Gonzaga (20-1), Virginia (19-0), Kentucky (19-0), and Valparaiso (19-4) are the only teams in the country with at least 19 wins this season. • This is the fourth time in Notre Dame’s conference era (since 1995-96) that the Irish suffered just one regular-season non-conference loss (2006-07, 2010-11, 2012-13, 2014-15).
  • Notre Dame is 4-0 in conference road play for the first time ever (BIG EAST & ACC).
  • Notre Dame ranks in the top four nationally in six categories: assist-to-turnover ratio (1st, 1.72), field goal% (2nd, 52.1%), fewest personal fouls per game (3rd, 13.7), fewest turnovers per game (4th, 9.0), won-lost% (4th, .905), and scoring margin (4th, +18.7).
  • Notre Dame ranks first nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.72) and fourth in fewest turnovers per game (9.0). • Notre Dame is only committing 8.1 turnovers per game in ACC play. The Irish boast a 1.77 assist-to-turnover ratio in league action. • The Irish have committed fewer than 10 turnovers in 12 games this season, including five times in the last six games. • Notre Dame had a season-low four turnovers against Michigan State (Dec. 3).
  • The Irish rank ninth nationally (first in the ACC) in scoring (81.9 PPG). • Notre Dame’s 81.9 points-per-game average is the highest since the Irish averaged 85.4 PPG. during the 1976-77 campaign.
  • Notre Dame boasts the nation’s second-best field goal percentage (.521). • Six Notre Dame players are shooting better than 47.0 percent from the field (min. 50 attempts) — Auguste (63.3%), Jackson (52.3%), Grant (51.0%), Connaughton (48.6%), Vasturia (48.5%) and Beachem (47.4%)
  • Four Fighting Irish players are averaging at least 13 points per game this season – Grant (17.1), Connaughton (13.9), Auguste (13.7) and Jackson (13.4).
  • Notre Dame has had at least four players reach double-figures in 18 of 21 games this season. The Irish have had five or more double-digit scorers on eight occasions. The Irish had a season-high six players reach double-figures against Purdue (December 20).
  • Notre Dame is 11th nationally in made three-point field goals (188) and 16th three-point field goal percentage (.400). Both of those figures lead the ACC.
  • The Irish are 19th nationally (first in the ACC) in three-pointers per game (9.0).
  • The Irish have made 10 or more treys in a game seven times this season (three times in ACC play).
  • Three Irish players are shooting 43.0% or higher from three-point range (min. 50 att.), Beachem (44.9%), Connaughton (45.3%), and Jackson (43.8%).


Individual Player Highlights

  • Jerian Grant started his 100th career game on Sunday at North Carolina State. He is the 11th player in Fighting Irish history to start at least 100 games. Grant is the second Notre Dame player to reach that milestone this season.
  • Jerian Grant leads the ACC in assists per game (6.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.36). He is fourth in both points per game (17.1) and minutes played (750).
  • He ranks 10th nationally in assists (130) and 11th in assists per game (6.2).
  • Grant is the only player in the country averaging 16.0 PPG, 6.0 APG. and shooting 50 percent or above from the field.
  • Grant has scored 20-plus points a team-best seven times this season. He netted a career-high 27 points versus Michigan State (December 3).
  • He has dished out at least six assists nine times in the last 10 games.
  • His 3.36 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 11th nationally. His 2.54 career assist-to-turnover ratio ranks fourth among active Division I players.
  • Senior Pat Connaughton notched his 100th career start on January 3 versus Georgia Tech.
  • Connaughton has started 103 consecutive games. He is the third player in Notre Dame history to start at least 100 straight games.
  • Connaughton has played in all 122 games during his career and has started all but 16 of those contests.
  • Pat Connaughton has reached double-figures in each of the last 10 games, which is a career-best streak and is the longest active streak for the Irish.
  • Connaughton has a team-best six double-doubles this season (two in ACC play) and his 13 career double-doubles are the most for any current Irish player.
  • Connaughton leads Notre Dame in rebounding (8.3 RPG) and is second in scoring (13.9 PPG).
  • He ranks 11th nationally (second in the ACC) in defensive rebounds per game (7.19) and he is sixth in the ACC in total rebounds per game (8.3).


  • Connaughton ranks 12th nationally in three-point percentage (.453) and 22nd in made three-pointers (58).
  • Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Steve Vasturia, Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste have been Notre Dame’s starting five in 19 of 21 games this season.
  • Jackson, Grant, Vasturia and Connaughton have started every game this season, while Auguste has 19 starts.
  • Last season, the Irish juggled its starting lineup throughout the campaign and ended up with 12 different rotations.

3. Head-to-Head


Wednesday will be the 23rd meeting all-time between Notre Dame and Duke and the second as Atlantic Coast Conference foes. The Blue Devils lead the series 19-3. The Fighting Irish topped No. 7 Duke, 79-77, last season at Purcell Pavilion in their first-ever ACC game. That snapped Duke’s 11-game win streak in the series. Duke is 4-3 all-time at Notre Dame. The two programs met 12 times between the 1984-85 and 1994-95 seasons.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Although Duke’s stats have decreased/increased (where appropriate) since beginning ACC play, they still have an edge over Notre Dame in all categories, which give the Blue Devils a significant statistical edge head-to-head.


Duke 2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Notre Dame
81.6 (+17.6) PPG (Scoring Margin) 81.9 (+18.7)
63.9 Opponents PPG 63.2
56.5 Effective FG% 60.0
49.9 FG% 52.1
42.3 Opponent FG% 40.4
37.4 3PT FG% 40.0
29.1 Opponent 3PT FG% 33.3
38.1 (+7.4) RPG (Rebound Margin) 35.1 (+3.3)
30.6 Opponent RPG 31.9
15.7 APG 15.5
7.5 SPG 6.8
11.4 (+1.5) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 9.0 (+2.5)
12.9 Opponent TOPG 11.5
3.6 BPG 3.9

4. Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,]

 Duke-ND 4Fs

Duke and Notre Dame are split when we look at the four factors. Duke has the edge in offensive rebounding at 37.5% vs. 30.3% and when it comes to getting to the free throw line, at 43.9% vs. 34.4%. Notre Dame shoots the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 60.0% vs. 56.5% and handles the ball better (13.8% vs. 16.9%).

5. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:


  • Highly efficient attack
  • Stingy defense.
  • Commits few fouls

Notre Dame

  • Hard to score against
  • Commits few fouls.
  • Makes the most of its possessions

Now, a few key points to consider (refer to the Endgame). These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Shelve the Celebration
    • Many college and pro teams try to implement a 24-hour rule to allow for basking in the glow of a big win, so should Duke with this occasion.
    • As big a deal as it was, the victory didn’t help Duke’s cause in the ACC since it was a non-conference game, and now comes back-to-back road tilts in the conference that are far more important.
  • Force Bad Shots
    • The key to stopping the Irish is preventing them from getting easy shots.
    • They’ll make some of the tough ones, regardless, but fewer if they’re being contested.
    • With an average of more than 22 three-pointers attempted per game, if Duke’s defenders have their hands down, the shots are going to go up
  •          Feed the Paint
    • As strong as Notre Dame is with its scoring and outside shooting, because of its lineup, it is not very adept at defending the rim. With only one starter, junior Zach Auguste, taller than 6’5″, the Fighting Irish are susceptible to being taken advantage of inside.
    • Luckily for Duke, it has arguably the best post player in the country in 6’11” freshman center Jahlil Okafor. It’s just a matter of making sure he’s getting as many touches as possible, and not having the guards take too many unnecessary perimeter shots when such a strong post player is waiting down low.
  • ContainJerian Grant
    • There is no real weak spot to Notre Dame’s attack, but there’s certainly a most dangerous piece to the offensive puzzle, and that’s senior guard Jerian Grant.
    • Duke has allowed nine teams to have a player score at least 20 points this season. Grant could go for 30 if it doesn’t slow him down.
  • Where Did Justice Winslow Go?
    • Ever since scoring a career-high 20 in a road win over Wake Forest on January 7, the freshman forward has all but disappeared from Duke’s offense.
    • In the last five games, he’s averaged a mere 4.4 points, compared to 10.5 for the season.
    • Duke needs some sort of production from Winslow, or he’ll see his minutes continue to drop.
    • Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones combined for 40 minutes off the bench against St. John’s, but they shouldn’t have to play that much to only contribute eight total points

6. Endgame

Two of the top teams in the ACC face off when the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils travel to Purcell Pavilion to face the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Duke is in the midst of a three-game road trip and mounted a fantastic comeback against the St. John’s Red Storm to get Coach K his 1,000th win on the season. The milestone is important to both the team and Coach K, but their next two road games will decide the outcome of the ACC as they face Notre Dame and then the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, got caught looking ahead to their matchup with the Blue Devils and nearly fell away from home to the North Carolina State Wolfpack. However, their comeback proved that this team was more than capable of fighting back from a disappointing start, something that will be key going into March Madness as an expected No. 3 or No. 4 seed.

This game could decide the outcome of the ACC. Virginia still boasts at least half a game in hand over both Duke and Notre Dame, so the loser will be essentially out of the running for the ACC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. As crazy as it sounds, the Blue Devils need this win more after the surprising two-game skid to NC State and the Miami Hurricanes, so expect Duke to fight hard and get win No. 1,001 for Coach K.

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