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Men’s Basketball

Irish mount another comeback win in thriller with Duke

| Thursday, January 29, 2015

Just when it appeared No. 4 Duke was ready to run away with the game, senior guard Jerian Grant and No. 8 Notre Dame pulled off yet another comeback to win 77-73 in front of a raucous, sold-out Purcell Pavilion last night.

With just over a minute remaining in regulation and Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1 ACC) up one, Grant tried to pull up for a 3-pointer with three seconds on the shot clock, only to have the ball knocked away by Duke senior guard Quinn Cook. Unfazed, Grant gathered the loose ball in the lane and hit a floater over Duke junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon as the shot clock buzzer sounded to put Notre Dame up 73-70 with 1:07 remaining.

Irish senior guard Jerian Grant, center, and his teammates celebrate following their 77-73 win against Duke on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish senior guard Jerian Grant, center, and his teammates celebrate following their 77-73 win against Duke on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.

“I was just trying to figure out if I wanted to step back or go past him,” Grant said. “I ended up losing the ball but I had time to gather it and get a shot off.”

“When the game got right down to the end, Grant made that bucket,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “That was a heck of a bucket. A fortunate bucket, but a heck of a bucket.”

A pair of free throws by Cook cut the Irish lead to one, but again Grant came through as the shot clock wound down. The senior drove the lane and went airborne, but at the last second threw the ball to a wide-open Irish sophomore guard Steve Vasturia in the corner. Vasturia rose from beyond the 3-point arc and sank his first, and only, field goal of the game to increase the Notre Dame lead to four with 22 seconds left.

“I think [Vasturia’s] percentage when they’re crunch time shots, big shots, it’s well over 50 percent,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “That’s such a pro move, what [Grant] did there, backing down and then finding a shooter in the corner. But I think we have a lot of confidence in [Vasturia] rising up to take it.”

“We should not have left Vasturia,” Krzyzewski said. “You have to make Grant take a 2-point shot, which we were, and then we left [Vasturia] and the kid hit a huge shot.”

Sulaimon hit one of two free throws for the Blue Devils (17-3, 4-3 ACC) to make it a one possession game, but freshman forward Bonzie Colson answered with his own free throw to seal the victory for Notre Dame. Grant finished the game with a double-double, netting 23 points and dishing out 12 assists while also collecting six rebounds in front of 17 NBA scouts.

“I’m never surprised by anything [Grant] does,” Irish sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson. “He’s a great player; in my opinion the best player in college basketball.”

After Duke went on a 9-0 run to lead 60-51 just over seven minutes into the second half, Irish sophomore forward V.J. Beachem threw down a two-handed slam to get the sold-out crowd on its feet again.

Sophomore forward V.J. Beachem dunks during the second half of Notre Dame's 77-73 win over Duke at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday.Jodi Lo | The Observer
Sophomore forward V.J. Beachem dunks during the second half of Notre Dame’s 77-73 win over Duke at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday.

That same crowd fell silent seconds later though, when senior guard and team captain Pat Connaughton went airborne and landed hard on his head. The senior laid on the court for a minute before walking off under his own power. After being evaluated by the team doctor, he returned to action a few minutes later, missing 1:08 of game time.

“[My head] hurts a little bit,” Connaughton said. “I joked that I can’t remember the last ten minutes of the game, I just remember us winning. … I was more confused about why a seven-footer [Duke junior center Marshall Plumlee] up-faked a six-five guard, but at the end of the day I didn’t want to come out of that game.”

“[When the training staff] said, ‘[Pat] will need two more minutes,’ I’m thinking, ‘Well, then I should call two more timeouts until I can put him back in,” Brey said after the game. “He took a heck of a spill, but what a warrior.”

Just over nine minutes into the second half, an inside bucket by freshman center Jahlil Okafor pushed Duke’s lead to 10, the largest of the game for either team. Notre Dame responded with a 12-0 run over the next 4:35 to take the lead at 67-65.

“We just needed to play harder,” Jackson said of his team’s focus before going on the run. “Guys started playing harder, kept an edge an edge about themselves, and made shots.”

This was the fourth time in the last five games that Notre Dame trailed by double digits yet came back to win the game.

Brey said, “I told my team after the game, ‘Down 10, you’ve got them right where you want them, don’t you fellas? Thanks a lot; thanks for doing that to me again.’”

Irish senior guard Jerian Grant takes the ball to the hole during Notre Dame's 77-73 win over Duke on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish senior guard Jerian Grant takes the ball to the hole during Notre Dame’s 77-73 win over Duke on Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion.

The early stages of the game saw the Blue Devils dominate inside. Duke junior forward Amile Jefferson blocked a Vasturia lay-up on the game’s first possession and then laid in one of his own on the other end. Duke scored 24 of its first half points in the paint while also pulling down six offensive rebounds en route to a 39-36 lead at the break.

Irish junior forward Zach Auguste picked up his second foul with 8:46 left in the first half and was forced to sit for the rest of the half. In Auguste’s absence, freshman forward Jahlil Okafor had his way with the smaller Irish defense, racking up what at times appeared to be an effortless 11 points and nine rebounds in the half.

The Irish defense played Okafor physically all night, something that drew the ire of Krzyzewski.

“What happens with [Okafor], it’s not just this game, is that they allow a lot of contact,” Krzyzewski said. “[Colson] played hard. He played really hard and did a really good job, and he had help, too.

“… What you can do [in the post] and what you can’t do out on the perimeter are two totally different worlds. It’s a tough thing to officiate, but there’s no question that there’s a lot [of contact].”

Still, the potential first-overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft finished the game with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

“[Okafor] has great footwork,” Auguste said. “He has a big body and he knows how to use it. He knows what he wants to do and can get good shots.”

Connaughton posted Notre Dame’s second double-double of the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Auguste and Jackson recorded 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Though giving up six inches to Okafor, Colson provided a first-half spark for Notre Dame. Manning the post while Auguste sat with foul trouble, Colson scored seven of his eight points in the first half and hauled in three rebounds, including one while sitting on the floor. He also fearlessly completed a 3-point play after taking the ball straight at Okafor in the paint. When he exited for the first time, the Purcell Pavilion crowd gave him a standing ovation and while shooting free throws later in the first half, the student section began chanting his name.

“One thing about [Colson], he is not afraid,” Brey said. “He loves the moment.”

The victory marked Notre Dame’s 600th win at Purcell Pavilion, which first hosted the team for the 1968-69 season.

Notre Dame will be back in action Saturday when it travels to Pittsburgh. The game is slated to tip at noon.


See it: Check out our photo gallery from this game.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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