Observations: Notre Dame Basketball Roars Back From Early Hole, Knocks Off Duke 93-89 Behind Cormac Ryan, Prentiss Hubb
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Observations: Notre Dame Roars Back From Early Hole, Knocks Off Duke 93-89

Notre Dame earned its first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 2016 when it beat Duke 93-89 Tuesday afternoon.

No, it’s not the same atmosphere and not the same caliber of Duke team, but it’s still an important win and comes a year after the Irish lost by 34 in the same building. Notre Dame is 8-10 on the season and 5-7 in the ACC.

Here are some observations from the game.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball junior guard Prentiss Hubb
Junior guard Prentiss Hubb was important down the stretch for Notre Dame in its 93-89 win at Duke. (ACC)

• This was pretty dang close to a reverse script of Saturday’s 82-80 loss at Georgia Tech. Notre Dame fell behind by 15 in the first half due to some leaky defense and missing some open shots. It started making enough to claw back into the game and get into a shootout. It put together enough stops in the second half to pull ahead and stay ahead.

• Duke shot 48.6 percent in the second half and committed 12 turnovers in the game. Those are still fine offensive numbers, but not enough to keep up with Notre Dame’s 55.2 percent shooting, 11 three-pointers and only seven turnovers. Notre Dame spent the last eight minutes in zone, which provided strong rim defense and dared a poor Duke three-point shooting team to beat them from deep.

• Per the ACC Network broadcast, Mike Brey put junior guard Cormac Ryan back in the starting lineup so he wouldn’t dwell on passing up a potential game-winning three-pointer Georgia Tech. Apparently, he received the message loud and clear. He took three early shots and missed them. All good looks. No harm there.

Then he exploded.

Ryan scored 28 points, 21 of them in the first half. His previous career high was 19. He made eight straight shots to close the first half, including a pair of three-pointers. He twice took athletic Duke freshman guard D.J. Steward off the dribble for layups. He beat forward Wendell Moore for a layup. He converted a tough one over 7-footer Mark Williams. This was the version of Ryan that Brey touted all of last season when he was redshirting and preseason.

Defensively, he was active too. He had three steals, drew a charge on Duke 6-9 sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, took an elbow from freshman guard Jeremy Roach and blocked a Moore jumper. There were some difficult moments against Moore one-on-one, and Stewart also beat him for a layup early in the second half, but he was disruptive and willing to body up his man.

• Notre Dame didn’t win only because of Ryan, though. The Irish attacked Duke’s porous ball-screen defense in the final 20 minutes and took what it gave up. At times, that was an easy layup because of a miscommunication. On other possessions, it was an advantageous switch and clear-out to attack it. Hurt was a frequent target and struggled in space.

Irish guards Prentiss Hubb and Trey Wertz combined for four assists on pick-and-roll layups. Hubb also found junior forward Nate Laszewski for a three-pointer out of a ball screen set. Wertz and Hubb each made unassisted threes when they were given the space after a screen came.

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• The ball was in Hubb’s hands again in the closing minutes, just as it was at Georgia Tech. His decision-making and decisions to drive weren’t flawless, but he did more good than bad. He found Durham twice for a layup on a roll to the rim. His three-pointer with 37 seconds left gave Notre Dame a 90-85 lead. It was a daring shot, but he correctly sensed he had space and a defender with his hand down not expecting a shot.

• In the final 10 minutes, Hubb had seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, three assists, two rebounds and one turnover.

• Two other important second-half awakenings Notre Dame doesn’t win without: Laszewski and grad student forward Juwan Durham. They were absent in the first half, with a combined three field goal attempts and suspect defense. Laszewski had no rebounds. Afterward, though, they totaled 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and drew three fouls. Durham had three blocks.

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