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Men’s Basketball

Irish to end road trip in Durham

| Friday, February 14, 2020

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team is set to travel to Durham, North Carolina, to take on the No. 7-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The Irish (15-9, 6-7 ACC) are coming off of a 50-49 loss to Virginia in Charlottesville where the Irish could only muster two points in the overtime period against the Cavalier’s pack line defense. The loss snapped Notre Dame’s four-game win streak that started with three-straight home wins over Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, as well as a road victory over Clemson.

That victory over Clemson was the start of a three-game road stretch for the Irish, with only the Blue Devils (21-3, 11-2 ACC) remaining. The loss to Virginia (16-7, 8-5 ACC) snapped the longest conference win streak for the Irish since the 2016-17 season, when they won six-consecutive games.

With the loss to Virginia, six of Notre Dame’s seven conference losses have been by a combined 13 points, including a three-point home loss to Louisville, a one-point home loss to Boston College and a one-point road loss to then-No. 5 Florida State.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish graduate student guard Rex Pflueger pivots with the ball during Notre Dame’s 80-72 win over Georgia Tech on Feb. 1.

Duke is coming in on a high after a dramatic 98-96 overtime win over archrival North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday, as well as a 70-65 victory against the No. 8 Seminoles (20-4, 10-3 ACC). However, that could provide the Irish with an opportunity to steal a win in a potential letdown game for the Blue Devils. A win at Duke would go a long way for an Irish team looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017 but currently on the outside looking in.

Duke is led by freshman forward Vernon Carey, who is averaging 17.5 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. They are also getting production from freshman guard Cassius Stanley (12.3 ppg) and freshman forward Matthew Hurt (10.5).

The engine that makes the Blue Devils run comes in the form of sophomore guard Tre Jones, whose intentionally missed free throw, subsequent rebound and buzzer-beating jump shot sent the North Carolina game to overtime. Jones is averaging 15.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. He is also shooting 73.5% from the free throw line and 32.1% from downtown.

Opposite the Blue Devils leading men, Irish senior captains John Mooney, T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger will look to give the Irish a fighting chance in a hostile road environment. Mooney just recorded his 20th double-double of the season against Virginia, matching his total from last season, while Gibbs and Pflueger are coming off a poor shooting night. The discrepancy in Gibbs’ box score — as he went 2-11 from the field and had only six points — is unusual given that he was the only player in the ACC coming into the game shooting 50% from both the field and three as well as 90% from the stripe.

Also of note is Irish head coach Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant under coach Mike Krzyzewski, is the only former Coach K. player or assistant to record a win against the Blue Devils. The Irish have not won in Cameron Indoor Stadium since a 95-91 effort in the 2015-16 season when then-sophomore Bonzie Colson scored 31 points off the bench.

The Irish will tip off Saturday at 4 p.m., and the game will be aired by ESPN.

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