Jerian Grant did it all down the stretch to help No. 8 Notre Dame pull off a 77-73 win over No. 4 Duke Wednesday night.
Down 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second half, the host Fighting Irish clawed their way back and made some huge shots down the stretch to earn their biggest victory of the year.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted how well Notre Dame plays against top opponents:
Notre Dame had four players in double figures, including Pat Connaughton with 13 points and 12 rebounds. However, the real story was the play of Grant, who finished with 23 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Rob Dauster of NBC Sports summed up the effort from the senior:
Jahlil Okafor had a strong performance for Duke, totaling 22 points and 17 rebounds with three assists. This was the freshman's fifth double-double in the past seven contests and continues his streak of at least 10 points in every game this year.
Quinn Cook added 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half.
Still, the Irish were able to fight their way to an impressive victory in one of the more entertaining games you will watch all season.
Although putting talented teams on the floor doesn't always mean they will be fun to watch (see: Kentucky and Virginia), this game was certainly the exception.
Jeff Borzello of ESPN gave his endorsement before things got started:
As the game continued, plenty of other fans noted how much they were enjoying the action:
To make things even more exciting, the stars showed up early, as Grant earned some hyperbolic praise from Ben Standig of CSN Washington:
Chris Dortch of NBA.com also had great things to say about Okafor, who almost had a double-double in the first half:
At the same time, lesser-known players were doing their part. Foul trouble for Notre Dame's Zach Auguste thrust Bonzie Colson into action, and he responded well:
Colson had seven points and three rebounds in the first half to help limit Duke's damage as the road team went into intermission up 39-36.
The two sides continued to display great offense to start the second half as they played to a 51-51 tie at the under-16 timeout. Then the Blue Devils went on a run and seemed ready to pull away, as described by Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:
Connaughton took a hard fall on the court but returned a few minutes later, and so did the Irish, regaining the lead thanks to a 14-2 run. Angelo Di Carlo of WNDU provided his thoughts on the home atmosphere:
While the two sides continued to trade punches, Notre Dame was the one that made big shots as the shot clock ran down. Grant made one attempt while basically falling over and then found Steve Vasturia in the corner for a three-pointer to help the Irish take a four-point lead.
Amazingly, the point guard made just as big of an impact on the defensive end with a huge block to maintain the lead. Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal summed up the thoughts of many watching the game:
One more free throw by Colson protected the lead and helped seal the impressive win for Notre Dame, one that will certainly look good on the resume in March.
Despite this being a game between Top 10 foes, both teams had to worry about focus after exciting moments over the weekend.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski earned career win No. 1,000 against St. John's, which caused the Hall of Famer to be a bit concerned going forward, per Chris Carlson of The Post-Standard:
On the other hand, Notre Dame escaped a tough battle against North Carolina State with a three-point win in overtime Sunday. Head coach Mike Brey told ESPN's C.L. Brown that his veterans help maintain team-wide focus:
Grant and Connaughton have kept us so focused and so grounded after big wins and thrilling wins, which we've had a lot of them. We're really able to start focusing on the next opponent in the locker room. We started talking about Duke in the NC State locker room after the game. Each week they've handled success really well, they've moved on to the next challenge and haven't dwelled on wins or great wins or dramatic wins.
While both teams came prepared, it was the Irish who had the bigger edge to come through with the impressive victory.
Notre Dame will have a bit of an easier time in its next game at Pittsburgh before coming home to face Boston College. Wins over these former Big East rivals could go a long way toward keeping the Irish in contention in the ACC.
Duke, meanwhile, faces a challenge next with a road game against No. 2 Virginia, which also has the entire week to prepare for the matchup. Considering it is the only time the Cavaliers and Blue Devils will play in the regular season, it will certainly be a game to watch.
Additionally, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today reminds people Duke and Notre Dame will meet again in the near future:
Considering how much fun it was the first time, fans better get ready for another battle in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.