SOUTH BEND—It’s been a bumpy ride for No. 21 Duke the past month. Now, interim coach Jeff Capel thinks the Blue Devils are coming together.Jayson Tatum had 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, Grayson Allen scored 21 points and Duke won on the road for the second time in three days, beating No. 20 Notre Dame 84-74 on Monday night.The Blue Devils hadn’t strung together consecutive wins since the first week of January, and just last week were banned from their locker room by coach Mike Krzyzewski after a disappointing loss to North Carolina State.
”I think we’re growing up, I think we’re becoming tougher,” said Capel, now 3-3 subbing for Krzyzewski, who is still recovering following back surgery. ”To be able to go on the road the past three days in two sold-out, hostile environments and to be able to get wins speaks volumes about our guys.”
Luke Kennard and Matt Jones each added 16 points for the Blue Devils (17-5, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who leaned heavily on their starting five, getting all but six points from that group. Kennard and Amile Jefferson both fouled out, and the teams combined for 48 fouls and 52 free throws.V.J. Beachem scored 20 points and Bonzie Colson had 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (17-6, 6-4), which has lost three straight.After the Irish cut Duke’s lead to six, Jones responded with a three-point play and scored five of the next seven points to push Duke ahead 63-50 with 9:34 left.The Irish weren’t done yet, reeling off 12 straight points to cut the lead to 63-62 with 6:25 to go, but again the Devils responded, with Allen hitting a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper from atop the key.That sparked an 11-2 run that pushed the Devils lead back to double digits with 2:29 left.Despite being loudly booed the entire game, Allen had 10 points before the break and hit all four of his free throws down the stretch.The Blue Devils picked up just their second win against the Irish in the seven games they’ve played since Notre Dame joined the ACC. They have won three of four overall, including a win at Wake Forest on Saturday.
”I thought our game plan was really good,” Capel said. ”We played great at the end of the Wake Forest game, and I thought we had some carry over.”
Notre Dame: After opening ACC play with five straight wins, the Irish are struggling, losing four of their last five, including a buzzer-beater at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
”We are getting smacked hard right now,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. ”But we’re getting smacked together.”
Duke outscored the Irish 16-4 to end the first half and held them without a field goal for the final 8:41 to take a 12-point lead.Brey went to a five-guard lineup for much of the second half and suggested that he may have to alter his starting lineup for the first time this season.
”I liked our five-out in the second half,” Brey said. ”I think we’ve really got to consider starting small like we did in the second half.”
No player off of either team’s bench scored a point in the first half. … The Blue Devils outrebounded Notre Dame 21-10 in the second half. … Duke has run out eight different starting lineups this season, while Notre Dame has used the same one all season.The path doesn’t get any easier in the ACC for the Irish, who head to Tobacco Road to face No. 12 North Carolina on Saturday.