The Fighting Irish book ended last night’s game in South Bend against Duquesne with significant runs scoring 27 of their 67 points in the first and final 6 minutes of the game. The Dukes matched Notre Dame fairly evenly for other 80% of the game, but didn’t have an answer for their opponent’s second run. Despite the seemingly lopsided final score, the game was much closer than it would appear if you just looked at the final box score.
Outside of the those Notre Dame runs, the Dukes did a very nice job defending. Overall, they held the ACC squad under 40% shooting in their home gym. Duquesne had yet another player step up and lead the way in Tavian Dunn – Martin, which I predicted in the podcast. This team has depth for days!
The Dukes only played a 30 minute game and you simply won’t win if that happens too often. They got off to a bad start and for the first time we saw them close the game poorly. We also saw how inexperienced their post is after Michael Hughes and while this roster is loaded with size, it’s not ready to go toe – to – toe with veteran bigs like John Mooney or even Juwan Durham, who impacted the game defensively early in the first half.
Also any Duke without the initials TDM went 3-23 from three for the Dukes, an awful 13%.
Player of the Game
Mooney took the game over late in the second half scoring 10 points, and grabbing 6 rebounds while going 4/4 from the free throw line in the final ten minutes.
If I had to pick a Duquesne player of the game, I would go with either TDM, who put in an efficient performance at both ends or Frankie Hughes who sparked the Dukes surge with a three, an assist on another three, and two drawn charges.
No one scored for a 1:45 stretch after TJ Gibbs made a lay up that ultimately put Notre Dame ahead for good at 6:30. It was still anyone’s game at that point. Unfortunately, Michael Hughes fouled out and the Dukes turned the ball over twice before Mooney hit two free throws to extend it to two possessions. The Dukes simply could not recover.
When I Knew It Was Over
Mooney’s ‘and 1’ with 1:19 left in the game pretty much sealed the deal. It was probably well in the Irish’s favor prior to that point but it was truly in the bag after pushing the lead back to double digits.
Credit Where It’s Due
Notre Dame might be the best program in the country that very few talk about in that upper echelon, and Mike Brey is among the best in the business. Sure, they haven’t reached a Final Four but they’re so consistently good. They’re still very solid even in a down year.
What We Learned
It’s weird to say this in an 11 point loss, but I think we saw some of this team’s upside in the middle thirty minutes of this game. The Irish are likely an NIT team and almost a lock for the NCAA tournament for the next few years, but the Dukes didn’t look that out of place. I also think Duquesne has more room to grow. I’m actually pretty encouraged about the future after last night.
I don’t like moral victories, but if you told me this young Dukes team would give themselves a chance to win late in the second half, I’d have taken it in a heart beat earlier in the day. Notre Dame is going through a transitional year of their own, but they’d be the best team in this year’s A-10 by a decent margin even in a down year for their program. Last night’s game tells me the Dukes can compete in every game remaining on their schedule even if the final score turned out more lopsided than it should have. This game also told me their build is capable of competing against future NCAA tournament teams.