Revenge in sports is sweet, especially when it comes in humiliating form, as Duke avenged their earlier loss this season to Notre Dame with a crushing 90-60 blowout in a game between two top 10 ACC teams, led by a Jahlil Okafor double double and a fantastic performance from Justise Winslow.
Notre Dame might have the most efficient offense in the nation, but that didn’t show as they made their visit to Durham, facing a crowd in a hungry like frenzy, something usually only seen when the play North Carolina. Duke shot 81% from the field in the first half, jumping to 50-24 lead, never looking back, unlike dropping a big double digit lead when they visited South Bend last month, resulting in a four point loss.
This time they kept up their intense defense and good shooting, finishing with 60.8% from the field and holding Notre Dame to just 0.95 points per possession, a season low for the Fighting Irish. Losing by 30 points is also their worst loss in the Mike Brey era (which began in the 2000-2001 season) and their biggest since losing by 31 points twice in one week in 1999 against Villanova and the number one team in the country at the time, Connecticut.
Okafor finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but Duke began their impressive run during his time on the bench due to foul trouble. As with most big runs by Duke, it had a lot more to do with the spark provided by Tyus Jones from the backcourt than Okafor’s dominance in the paint. Jones scored “just” 12 points but he also added 5 rebounds and 7 assists while the size of Amile Jefferson and Winslow provided to be too much for Notre Dame, , getting only 7 points from star player Jerian Grant, held to only 3-of-10 from the field. Duke outscored them 44-26 in the paint.
Winslow scored 19 points to go along with 11 rebounds. He added two blocks as well, with Duke holding Notre Dame to just 39.7% from the field. Duke shot 60% from beyond the arc and a reasonable 73.1% from the line. For Notre Dame, even the simple art of making free throws seemed difficult on such an afternoon, making only 6-of-17 from the line. It did seem that the players were simply overwhelmed by the entire event.
This is the defense that coach envisioned us playing the whole year, this type of intensity and … shutting teams down, the athletes we have. It just so happened that all eight guys were locked in, and when you have a game like that when everyone’s so focused and into the game, you get something special like that. We have not executed that way in a long time on both ends of the court. It was almost perfect.
The win doesn’t get Duke any closer to conference leaders Virginia, but it does distance Notre Dame from the golden pot. It also showed that Duke can dominate through their defense. Don’t be fooled. As hot as their shooting got, this kind of dominant win came thanks to the ball pressure and relentlessness on defense. Whether it was hunger to get revenge or simply being in the right state of mind, we’ll probably learn in the next few games.