Despite playing without recently dismissed leading scorer Jerian Grant, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish upset the No. 7-ranked Duke Blue Devils on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind., 79-77.
Academic issues led to Grant's departure from the program and school, but the Irish rallied to win in their first conference game as a member of the ACC.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was able to best his former mentor and boss Mike Krzyzewski. Brey served under Krzyzewski before moving on to become a head coach. Brey gave props to the supportive crowd at the Joyce Center and talked about the pride he has for his team.
Led by senior guard Eric Atkins, Notre Dame out-executed the Blue Devils in the second half. Atkins finished with a double-double (19 points and 11 assists). His playmaking and the Irish's size advantage led to 52.6 percent shooting from the field.
Even Notre Dame's tennis coach, Ryan Sachire recognized Atkins' outstanding effort.
It's the Eric Atkins show.— Ryan Sachire (@NDcoachSachire) January 4, 2014
Notre Dame also pounded Duke 39-30 on the glass. A huge second-half run from the Irish sealed the deal. Seth Davis of CBS Sports highlighted the onslaught and urged fans to put the NFL Playoffs on hold.
Damn! Irish on 20-4 run. Lead by 6 under 4 mins to go. Seriously folks, the NFL can wait.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 4, 2014
Duke's freshman star Jabari Parker had the worst game of his young college career. His seven-point performance on 2-of-10 shooting marked the first time he'd been held to single-digit scoring in a game. Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News pointed out how ordinary Parker looked during the game.
Right now, six Notre Dame players have more points than Jabari Parker. Only one has more shot attempts than Parker, though.— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) January 4, 2014
The Blue Devils used 12 three-pointers to take the lead into halftime. They kept pouring in shots from long-range midway through the second half. Stephen Wiseman of the Herald Sun noted the Blue Devils' marksmanship.
Duke has made 12 of 22 3-pointers. 8th time in 14 games Devils have made 10 or more— Stephen Wiseman (@stevewisemanNC) January 4, 2014
Duke sophomore Rodney Hood made five from long distance and led all scorers with 27 points. However, his efforts weren't enough to get the job done as the Irish's run in the second half was sufficient to hold off the Blue Devils down the stretch.
Both teams will be at home on Tuesday for their next games. Notre Dame will welcome North Carolina State and Duke will play host to Georgia Tech.
The Irish will be hoping to build on their success from Saturday, and the Blue Devils hope to get Parker back on track.
Check out the grades for this thrilling ACC clash.
Jabari Parker, D
The freshman sensation never found his rhythm in this one. He took ill-advised shots and wasn't a force on the glass, totalling just four rebounds.
He made just 2-of-10 from the field and watched from the bench as his team went down in the final minutes.
Eric Atkins, A-
Who played the biggest role in the Irish's upset win?
The senior was nearly flawless in his execution of Brey's offense. He got his big men the ball to exploit Duke's size deficiency and only turned the ball over two times.
His only flaws on the day came at the free throw line. He made just 5-of-8 attempts from the stripe. Notre Dame made only 54 percent of its free-throw attempts as a team.
Rodney Hood, A-
Hood was dynamic in the first half.
He made silky-smooth moves off the dribble, and rained down threes with his feathery left-handed shooting stroke. In the second half, he was still good, but he disappeared during a key stretch when his team really needed him.
Hood also had a costly turnover with under a minute to play when Duke had a chance to tie. All in all, NBA scouts should come away impressed with his performance.
He made 8-of-17 attempts from the field and all six of his free throws.
Quinn Cook, A-
Cook took over as the big-shot maker when Hood stopped being aggressive. The point guard played well and finished with 22 points. His only issue was shot selection.
He hoisted up a few perplexing threes in the second half. The questionable decisions may not have cost Duke the game, but they didn't help the cause either.
Garrick Sherman, B-
At 6'11", Sherman had his way close to the basket most of the game. He showed a nice touch and great use of the glass on multiple occasions. Because Duke had no one to match his size, he was the most difficult matchup of the night.
Sherman finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. All things considered, he could have had even more.
Pat Connaughton, B
Every upset needs few swagger plays and Connaughton delivered them for Notre Dame. First, he posterized Parker on a drive down the lane. Take a look:
Then he whipped one through after a sweet feed from Atkins on the baseline. Connaughton had 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two dunks that helped carry the Irish to the upset.
Follow me. I love hoops like a play-cousin.