• Game 17: Notre Dame (11-5, 2-2) @ No. 9 Duke (14-3, 3-1)
• Date: Jan. 16, 2016
• Place: Cameron Indoor Stadium; Durham, N.C.
• Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN
• Opponent Nickname: Blue Devils
• Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski (36th year at Duke 959-254; overall 1,032-313)
• Conference: Atlantic Coast
• Location: Durham, N.C.
• 2014-15 record: 35-4 (15-3 in ACC)
Coming off a road loss to Clemson Wednesday, the No. 9-ranked Blue Devils (14-3, 3-1) will look to rebound Saturday afternoon in raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium when Notre Dame (11-5, 2-2) visits for the second year in a row.
Duke is a bit short-handed with the foot fracture suffered by 6-foot-9 senior Amile Jefferson, who was averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds before his injury in mid-December. Despite missing the last eight games, Jefferson is tied for the team-lead in offensive rebounds with 43 while shooting 68.3 percent from the field.
Without Jefferson against Clemson, the Blue Devils were out-rebounded by the Tigers, 36-24, including 10-to-4 on the offensive glass.
Mike Krzyzewski used predominately a seven-man rotation with Jefferson in the lineup. The bulk of the minutes are now distributed among two freshman, a sophomore, a junior and a senior.
The sophomore is Duke’s leading scorer, 6-foot-5 Grayson Allen, who is averaging 20.3 points per game while shooting 42.1 percent from three-point range and 84.1 percent from the free-throw line.
“He really can jump-start ‘em,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey of Allen. “He’s a tough matchup and a guy that gives the rest of that group confidence, especially their young players. They feed off his confidence.”
The freshmen are willowy 6-foot-9 Brandon Ingram (16.4 ppg., 6.0 rpg.) and 6-foot-5 Luke Kennard (11.9 ppg.), who has made 55-of-59 free throws (93.2 percent). Matt Jones, a 6-foot-5 junior, is third on the team in scoring at 13.4 per game. He paces the Blue Devils in three-pointers made (43) and three-point percentage (42.2).
Compensating for the loss of Jefferson up front is 7-foot-1 senior Marshall Plumlee, who is averaging 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Plumlee is shooting 68.9 percent from the field and is tied with Jefferson in offensive rebounds with 43.
Although this is a far cry from the team that won the national title a year ago led by Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook, Duke is averaging 87 points per game with non-conference victories over Virginia Commonwealth (79-71) and Georgetown (86-84) in November, and Indiana (94-74) in early December. The Blue Devils fell to Kentucky in mid-November, 74-63.
Duke opened ACC play with victories over Boston College (81-64) and Wake Forest (91-75) on the road with a home conquest of Virginia Tech (82-58) before falling to Clemson.
It felt like an avalanche.
Ten days after knocking off Duke at Purcell Pavilion last season, Notre Dame went to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Blue Devils, who administered a beating on the Irish that is difficult to erase from the memory bank.
Duke turned a 6-6 game into a 43-7 run, shooting an unfathomable 81 percent in the first half and running away with a 90-60 victory.
Mike Brey anticipates a better overall team reaction to Saturday’s visit with the Cameron Crazies.
“You would hope that now that this nucleus has been in that atmosphere, they won’t be as wide-eyed,” Brey said. “Even our olds guys, Pat (Connaughton) and Jerian (Grant), being in that atmosphere for the first time, were like…
“It’s unique, but I would hope they’re more able to handle it because they’ve experienced it.”
Ironically, two players that “handled it” as well as could be expected under the circumstances were then-sophomores Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia.
Jackson had 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting with three offensive rebounds and was as much of a stabilizing force as the Irish could muster that day. Vasturia scored a team-high 15 points on 3-of-8 shooting from three-point range.
“I thought coming out of there that (Jackson) became a bit of a leader that first half,” Brey said. “Pat and Jerian didn’t have a whole lot to say. They were shell-shocked. It was the only time all year that those two guys were shell-shocked, and I loved how Demetrius took the baton.”
THE RYAN EXPRESS
Look for start No. 2 by 6-foot-8 freshman sharpshooter Matt Ryan, who replaced Bonzie Colson in the starting lineup against Georgia Tech Wednesday with positive results.
The Irish trailed for just 42 seconds of the 72-64 victory over the Yellow Jackets, jumping to an early lead with Ryan scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. His only three-pointer of the game came 3:18 into the contest and helped give the Irish an early boost. It was a much-needed bump out of the gate after trailing by 18 in the first half against Pittsburgh.
“My feeling was let’s look at starting that way,” said Brey, who didn’t consider any starting variations other than the Ryan-for-Colson look. “It really opens the floor up. It helps Zach (Auguste) so he can roll down the middle of the floor. It helps our guards drive it and make plays, and you can’t do that unless Matt Ryan can hold his own defensively.”
Brey admitted to some concern on the defensive end with Ryan banging bodies with the likes of 6-foot-8, 256-pound Charles Mitchell and 6-foot-8, 262-pound Nick Jacobs. But Ryan grabbed seven rebounds and more than hold his own against one of the beefier front lines in the ACC. Ryan is listed at 217 pounds, which is up significantly, said Brey, since his arrival on campus last June.
Brey won’t mess with a small sample-size of success. Ryan will start in place of Colson again.
“I thought that was a great step for all of us to be confident that we can hold our own on the backboard when (Ryan) is our so-called four-man,” Brey said.
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
Matt Ryan’s rise was to the detriment of Bonzie Colson against Georgia Tech.
Colson – who came into the game averaging 14.0 points and 7.1 rebounds over the previous eight games while shooting 62.8 percent from the field – logged just 17 minutes against the Yellow Jackets and missed five of seven shots.
Colson’s initial reaction to the “demotion” was just what Brey was looking for.
“I brought him in and said, ‘I want to start a different way,’” Brey said. “And he said, ‘Coach, whatever we need to do to get a win,’ and that’s how pure he’s been.”
By starting Ryan in place of Colson, it allows the Irish to get in Brey’s preferred “four-around-one” look from the outset. That led to numerous Zach Auguste rolls to the basket with Auguste notching 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field.
Plus, Colson is usually good for a physical effort around the bucket and a lot of point-blank looks at the rim.
“(Colson is) very mature, very secure,” Brey said. “His frame of mind is very good. It was, ‘We are going to start a different way, and I want you to come off the bench and give us energy.’
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Saturday against Duke, it’s Colson who’s the guy, or that he teams up with Auguste to give us what we need.”
Pointspread: Duke by 8 ½
Prister/O’Malley Prediction: Duke 80, Notre Dame 70