WASHINGTON –Duke led by eight points at halftime and by as many as 15 midway through the second half, but at some point, the recent rivalry with Notre Dame was bound to make Thursday afternoon’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal a much closer affair.
Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run over the next five minutes and eventually closed the gap entirely, tying the game at 70 with 1:07 left. The following possessions were messy: a missed 3-pointer from Brandon Ingram, a missed jumper by Grayson Allen, a missed shot from Notre Dame’s Steve Vasuria and then a clunky near turnover on Duke’s penultimate play.
With Zach Auguste playing like an absolute star in the second half (19 points, 22 rebounds for the game), Notre Dame advanced to the ACC tournament semifinals with a 84-79 overtime win. The Irish will play North Carolina on Friday night in a rematch of last year’s ACC Tournament championship game.
After beating NC State in one of the highest-scoring ACC Tournament games of the last 30 years, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski praised the energy he got from his young team but acknowledged the chance that they might run out of gas against Notre Dame. The Blue Devils are already thin, but foul trouble (both Marshall Plumlee and Chase Jeter fouled out) and the game going to overtime made matters much worse.
Notre Dame got the first points of overtime and never trailed for the rest of the period, icing a huge win at the free-throw line in the final minutes. Duke looked gassed — even Mike Brey admitted “I do think Duke was a little tired” and mentioned the advantage of having the double bye — and Notre Dame was energized at the opportunity to get another win in what is becoming a fantastic rivalry in the modern day, 15-team ACC.
“This nucleus of guys, they’ve been doing this for a while. That was reminiscent of us in the postseason last year, making a big shot, getting a big rebound, making big free throws,” Brey said. He returned to the point a few minutes later adding, “with the nucleus of guys that return from a championship team last year, there is a great will to try and find a way to win. I have seen that for two years now.”
Even more exciting for Notre Dame is the opportunity to chase an ACC title and face the league’s blue bloods along the way. The Irish beat Duke and North Carolina on the way to winning the title a year ago and now get a rematch with the Tar Heels, another team they’ve fared well against recently.
“We’ve been good against those teams. It’s really helped our credibility in the league to do what we’ve done against Duke and Carolina. It’s given us a great identity in the league. To go through both of them again, to go through Carolina, get to the championship game, it would be huge.”
Brey’s won five of his last six games against Mike Krzyzewski and Duke, where Brey was an assistant for two national titles, and he’s currently carrying an incredible 12-1 record against the schools from Tobacco Road (Duke, UNC, NC State and Wake Forest) over the last two seasons.