Notre Dame came into Monday night’s matchup with 21st-ranked Duke reeling. Having dropped two straight, one in a blowout at home to Virginia and one on the road in heartbreaking fashion to Georgia Tech, the Irish needed to get back in the win column against a team they’ve owned (5-1) since joining the ACC.
The Blue Devils, on the other hand, haven’t been having their best season. Despite a 16-5 record and a number 20 ranking, the headlines for the Dukies this year have mostly dealt with tripping (Grayson Allen) and back issues (Coach K).
Despite some fireworks early, the Irish found themselves down seven and in need of a timeout with around five minutes remaining in the first half. The Blue Devils would push the lead over the last two minutes of the first half, and the Irish would head into the locker room down 37-25.
Following a nice run at the beginning of the second half, Notre Dame seemed to have some momentum going. But then, the referees got involved. On one play, Steve Vasturia set up himself up in the lane ahead of a driving Duke player, had time to check his Twitter mentions AND his Facebook, and then took the obvious charge. The call? And-one, shooting foul on Steve. Then, TJ Gibbs took the ball the rack, made the bucket, got the foul, and it seemed like the Irish would get an and-one. Then the foul was called on the floor, the basket was waved off, and Mike Brey got a technical. After all of that, two free points for Duke. College refs, folks. You don’t have to earn points here, they can be gifted and taken away. I’m not usually one to go too hard on referees, but man, they were really bad in this particular stretch. It was a six-or-seven-point swing in favor of Duke.
The game became a foul-per-possession affair immediately following, and it was really far from fun to watch. The Irish would get within three or five points on a couple of different occasions, but ultimately couldn’t get the job done. Your final: Duke 84, Notre Dame 74.
That’s three straight losses, two of which came at home. Steve Vasturia is only 2-16 in the last two games. The Irish were 17-26 from the line against Duke. Yuck.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that the Irish were down eight with the ball and 33 seconds left in a game in which the referees orchestrated a seven-point swing against the Irish. That’s why we love the sport.
Looking forward, the Irish are in desperate need of quality win or two. You can take losses to ranked teams to a certain extent, and they do have the win at home over Louisville, but you’re looking at a five seed at best in the NCAA tournament without more quality wins. If the Irish end up with double digit losses and no more quality wins, I wouldn’t be surprised if they fell to a seven or eight seed. Let’s hope a Notre Dame squad that wants to put together a full performance shows up when they visit North Carolina this weekend.