With four teams ranked in the top ten nationally, there is no question that the ACC is the premier conference in women's basketball this season.
And with a dominant road victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Kayla McBride and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (21-0, 8-0) made it clear which is the team to beat in the ACC.
In featuring the second- and third-ranked teams in the country, this one had all the makings of matching the thriller at Maryland less than a week ago, but the Irish controlled this one most of the way before blowing it wide open in the second half.
Facing a ten-point halftime deficit, the Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-1) twice cut the lead down to five early in the second half. But after a Richa Johnson lay-in cut the Irish lead to 49-44, it was all Notre Dame until the final buzzer. The Irish went on a 13-2 run before the under-12 minute timeout, keyed by a dagger Michaela Mabrey three. Duke never cut the lead below double-digits from there.
All-American McBride led the way for the Irish with 23 points after a hot start hitting her first five shots. She was flanked by double-digit scoring efforts from Jewell Loyd (17 pts), Natalie Achonwa (15), and upstart freshman Lindsay Allen (15).
The Irish were strong on the other end of the court as well, holding star guard Alexis Jones to just 7 of 22 shooting, though she was still clearly fighting an eye issue. For a team that struggled mightily inside against Maryland, Notre Dame had little trouble handling Duke's inside presence of Haley Peters and Elizabeth Williams, who combined for just 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting. As a team, Duke shot just 39 percent from the field.
With this victory, Notre Dame handed Duke their first home ACC loss since 2008. Even more than that, they sent a message to the rest of the conference that the ACC title runs through the new kids on the block in South Bend.
The Irish hit a bit of a lull in their schedule, as the next five games come against teams unlikely to be ranked. Notre Dame heads to Tallahassee on Thursday to take on #23 Florida State, reeling from a big loss Sunday at the hands of unranked Wake Forest that is likely to drop them from the rankings.
Duke gets their chance at a rematch when they visit South Bend on February 23rd, likely to be another nationally-featured Sunday matinee.