Duke’s had more than its share of problems this season, but the Blue Devils haven’t struggled to win on the road in recent days.
Twenty-first ranked Duke downed No. 20 Notre Dame, 84-74, on Monday in South Bend to notch its second road win in 48 hours.
Grayson Allen had a game-high 21 points for Duke while Jayson Tatum impressed with 19 points on 14 shots and with 14 rebounds. Luke Kennard added 16 points.
Notre Dame got 20 points from VJ Beachem and another 17 from Bonzie Colson. Notre Dame, one of the country’s top 3-point shooting teams, was 7 of 21 from distance.
Here’s what you need to know about Monday’s game:
1. Duke’s rotation looks to be rounding into shape: All five Duke starters played at least 31 minutes, and that number very may well have been higher if Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard wouldn’t have found themselves in foul trouble and eventually disqualified.
The Blue Devils have gone with the same starting five the last two games with Jefferson at center and Jayson Tatum at the four. Tatum was largely a spectator over the weekend when Luke Kennard went crazy, but he had 19 points (on 8 of 14 shooting) and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes. Meanwhile, Marques Bolden, who started a week ago, did not play against the Irish after seeing just three minutes in Duke’s win over Wake Forest over the weekend. Harry Giles also only logged nine minutes, with four of them coming after Jefferson fouled out.
It’s not to say Duke has found its formula and all is now right in Durham, but the Blue Devils had balanced scoring and solid defense while leaning on its starting five. Those five are likely going to be good enough to win Duke quite a few games, but if Giles and Bolden can just provide some sort of boost as well, that could move the Blue Devils closer to the ceiling everyone saw for them at the start of the season.
2. Have the Irish been solved?: Notre Dame has now dropped three straight, and have failed to score more than 1.06 points-per-possession in any of those losses. That’s particularly problematic for a team that relies on its well-oiled offense to counteract a so-so defense. There doesn’t appear to be a straightforward formula as Notre Dame struggled to score inside against Duke and Georgia Tech (48.6 and 40.0 percent on 2-pointers, respectively) and from deep against Virginia (16.7 percent).
Is it a fluke, minor blip or something more sinister? It’s difficult to say after just three games, but it’s happen both at home and on the road and certainly something worth monitoring, starting Saturday at North Carolina.
3. Jayson Tatum continues to impress, but the turnover rate continues to be an issue: One of the enduring images of this season will be Dennis Smith, Jr. soaring to a dunk as the buzzer sounded in NC State’s win against Duke. Well, that came to be after a Jayson Tatum turnover, something that happens with pretty solid regularity.
Against Notre Dame, he turned it over five times, a mark on an otherwise super-efficient night in which he scored 19 points on 14 shots, not to mention pulling down 14 boards and being instrumental in the win. He’s turned it over three or more times in eight of the 14 games he’s played, good for a turnover percentage of 19.4 percent. That’s a problematic number for a guy with the highest usage rate on the team.
Tatum has no doubt been one of Duke’s best players and is cementing his place near the top of the lottery in June’s NBA draft, but securing the ball just a little bit better would go a long way.
4. Notre Dame’s free-throw shooting has been bizarre: The offense’s shooting from the floor was documented above, but the Irish’s issues extend to the free-throw line as well during this losing streak. Notre Dame currently ranks second in the country with a team free-throw percentage of 80.2.
In these past three losses, Notre Dame is shooting just 66 percent on 56 attempts, including a 19 of 28 performance against the Blue Devils. The Irish don’t often get to the line a ton, but when they do, they need to convert at a high clip, especially when the rest of the offense is finding problems.