Notre Dame Basketball Not Out For Revenge, But Prior Dud Loss Against Duke Still Top Of Mind For Mike Brey
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Notre Dame Not Out For Revenge, But Prior Dud Vs. Duke Still Top Of Mind

There’s one game in particular of this bumpy Notre Dame basketball season that, as Mike Brey recently put it, still “sticks in my craw a little bit.” Nearly eight weeks removed, it remains a sour memory.

Its aftertaste lingers more than the most recent outing, in which Notre Dame let a 15-point halftime lead out of its grasp in a Saturday loss at Georgia Tech. More than a Jan. 27 loss where the Irish scored a season-low 51 points. More than a season-opener at Michigan State where Notre Dame allowed 26 consecutive points.

Brey is stuck on Dec. 16, 2020. Duke 75, Notre Dame 65 at Purcell Pavilion. A game decided by only 10 points, but one the Irish didn’t threaten to win. They never led, allowed Duke to grab 31 percent of its missed shots and average 1.21 points per possession. Brey took the biggest issue with stretches of dispassionate defense and a 19.4 percent turnover rate – four percentage points above the team’s average.

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Nate Laszewski (14) and Notre Dame never led in a Dec. 16 loss to Duke.
Nate Laszewski (14) and Notre Dame never led in a Dec. 16 loss to Duke. (ACC)

“I was really disappointed in how we fought, how we turned the ball over,” Brey said. “We were coming off a great win at Kentucky and had a chance to beat Kentucky and Duke in a five-day span.

“I just thought we went back on our heels, hung our heads.”

Brey’s not big on revenge, and Notre Dame’s more concerned with putting the disappointment from Saturday in the past, but Tuesday’s rematch with the Blue Devils (4:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network) presents as friendly a setting at Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Irish will ever find.

Since the first meeting, Duke is 4-5, oceans away from the AP Top 25 and ranked 71st in the NET. Its lone Quadrant I win is the prior defeat of Notre Dame. The Blue Devils have lost to Pitt and Miami, two teams Notre Dame throttled in late January. Notre Dame isn’t walking into Durham to face Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett or to play a game when Cameron’s home court advantage is at optimal mania.

For that, Brey’s thankful. Especially after he thought Georgia Tech’s modified home-court setting provided the Yellow Jackets a boost.

“That’s the first time we played in home atmosphere,” Brey said. “They had 1,000 people in there and the band, and it felt like a road game. It really helped them and flustered us.”

Whatever the reason, Notre Dame’s second half brought back some old concerns. The Irish allowed Georgia Tech to score on 61 percent of its possessions and shoot 62.5 percent. On offense, they mustered only four points in the final six minutes and committed nine turnovers after halftime.

Many of the same themes from that prior loss to Duke.

Brey, though, spent little time lamenting them immediately afterward. Pack up, fly to Durham, move on and frame it as a blip in a stretch where Notre Dame is still 4-2, shooting 43.5 percent on three-pointers and moving up the NET. Redemption for a yucky first go-round with the Blue Devils will be done not with rah-rah talks, but a business approach in practice.

“My postgame locker room was two minutes,” Brey said. “I’m not going to sit there and talk about how we need to be better against the press, have to do this, have to do that. We were crushed. We were playing well and just couldn’t hold them off. You can cut back yesterday and address some things one-on-one with some guys. But we have to move forward and see if we can get one on this road trip.”

Notre Dame (7-10, 4-7 ACC) at Duke (7-7, 5-5)

When: Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.

TV: ACC Network

Radio: Notre Dame basketball radio network

Series history: Duke leads 27-7

Line: Duke -6

KenPom prediction: Duke 77, Notre Dame 72

Other notes

• Duke beat Notre Dame earlier this year without freshman forward and projected lottery pick Jalen Johnson, the highest-ranked member of the Blue Devils’ freshman class. The 6-8 Johnson is averaging 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks in seven games this year. He is shooting 53.5 percent.

• Blue Devils’ leading scorer Matthew Hurt, a 6-9 forward, caused Notre Dame problems in the first meeting with his ability to turn and face in the post. His go-to shot is a turnaround fadeaway when one-on-one. He had 18 points, five rebounds and three assists last time against the Irish.

• Notre Dame leading scorer Nate Laszewski (15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) exploded for 27 points at Georgia Tech – seven more than he totaled in his prior three games. The outburst contained a 4-for-6 night shooting three-pointers. He had not taken more than three shots beyond the arc since Jan. 13.

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