Temperatures in Brooklyn on Saturday night were hovering in the 20’s. The only thing colder than the temps outside the doors of the Barclays Center was Notre Dame’s shooting from outside the arc causing Notre Dame’s dreams of a 2nd ACC title in three years to come to a crashing halt at the hands of Duke. The Blue Devils beat the Irish 75-69 to capture their first ACC crown since 2011.
Notre Dame struggled to keep up with Duke early falling behind by as many as nine. A strong final two minutes of the first half, however, cut the Duke lead to four points at the half. Then the Irish came storming out of the gates in the second half to take the lead and build an eight point lead of their own.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, the Irish were unable to hold on and Duke used a strong final two minutes of their own to close out the game and close out Notre Dame’s ACC Tournament run.
Notre Dame and Duke were locked in a tie game 65-65 with 2:02 left in the game, but Duke ended the game on 10-4 run. The Irish missed several open looks in the final two minutes and made a crucial mistake on an inbounds play that delivered the final dagger.
Down two points and needing to foul multiple times to get Duke on the line with 32 seconds, Notre Dame allowed Jayson Tatum to get behind the defense for a wide open dunk. To compound matters, Steve Vasturia committed a bad foul and Tatum knocked home the free throw to push the lead to 5 with 25 seconds left.
It was a valiant effort by Notre Dame but in the end, Notre Dame’s cold shooting allowed Duke back in the game in the second half as the Irish couldn’t hang on to their lead. While Duke drove to the basket with relative ease over the final 10 minutes, Notre Dame settled for some good open looks from the outside. Open looks they were unable to knock down as they hit just 6 of 25 three point attempts on the night.
In my ACC title game preview, I mentioned that Notre Dame would have to continue their hot three pointing shooting to take home their second ACC title. Unfortunately that proved true as Notre Dame just couldn’t match the size and athleticism of Duke.
Bonzie Colson nearly willed the Irish to the win even as they went cold from outside. Colson had a game high 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Notre Dame’s center was also its best three point shooter tonight knocking down two of three attempts. Take away Colson and the rest of the Irish went 4 of 22.
VJ Beachem and Matt Farrell were both 1 of 6 while Steve Vasturia hit just 1 of 5. Reserve Matt Ryan had 11 points on Friday night against Florida State, but scored just two points tonight while missing all three of his three pointers.
Other than the cold three point shooting, Notre Dame used a similar script that we’ve seen before in nearly taking home the ACC Championship. The Irish turned the ball over just six times to Duke’s 12 and passed the ball extremely well. The Irish even rebounded better than we’ve seen in their first two ACC Tourney games outrebounding Duke 33-30.
In the end, it was still a great run for the Irish in Brooklyn. They beat Virginia, a team that has been their nemesis, for the first time in 36 years on Thursday night and they added another win over a top 25 on Friday when they took down Florida State for the second time this season. Their run could only help their resume and seeding when the brackets come out tomorrow and if anything, the Irish showed that they can hang with elite teams even when they don’t have their three point game working. If they can do that again in the NCAA Tournament, the Irish could find themselves making another run this year.