GREENSBORO, N.C. – Just like Thursday night, Notre Dame came out smoking. Just like Thursday night, Notre Dame held off the charge of Duke, as it did Miami 24 hours earlier.
The end result was a 74-64 victory in semifinal action of the ACC tournament, sending Notre Dame to the ACC championship Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET against North Carolina, which claimed a 71-67 victory over No. 1 seed Virginia.
It marks Notre Dame’s first-ever trip to the conference championship game since joining the Big East in 1995-96.
Notre Dame built a 16-point lead in the first half and then withstood the unstoppable force in the middle – ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor – as well as a rampaging Justise Winslow in the second half.
Okafor scored 28 points and Winslow scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
Demetrius Jackson and Bonzie Colson combined to score 25 of Notre Dame’s 43 first-half points, and then Steve Vasturia led the charge in the second half as the Blue Devils repeatedly went to Okafor and Winslow.
Duke eventually trimmed the deficit to four with under two minutes remaining, but a buzzer-beater by Pat Connaughton with 1:12 on the shot clock ultimately secured it for the Irish.
Notre Dame out-scored Duke 30-14 in the paint in the first half and had a 17-0 bench advantage, thanks largely to Colson’s 14 points.
Notre Dame shot to an 18-5 lead with a 12-0 run. Jackson and Colson off the bench led the Notre Dame attack with Colson making 5-of-6 first-half shots. Sixteen of Notre Dame’s 17 first-half field goals were two-pointers as the Irish converted just 1-of-6.
Meanwhile, it was a one-man show on the other end of the court as Okafor scored 15 of Duke’s 26 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Colson tallied 17 points and Jackson finished with 15. Jerian Grant tossed in 13 points. Notre Dame finished just 2-of-8 from three-point range with 23 of 25 field goals from two-point range.