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Men’s Basketball

Plenty at stake for Irish vs. Krzyzewski’s No. 9 Blue Devils

| Monday, January 31, 2022

Mike Krzyzewski will coach in Purcell Pavilion one last time Monday night. For Notre Dame, however, there will be much more than spoiling a farewell tour at stake. 

With a win over No. 9 Duke (17-3, 7-2 ACC), the Irish (14-6, 7-2) would move into a tie with Miami for the top spot in the ACC standings. An 8-2 start in the conference would set an all-time program mark and likely place the Irish inside the NCAA Tournament bubble for the first time all season.

The tournament wasn’t even in the picture early this season for the Irish, who dropped four of their first eight games. However, Notre Dame has since won 11 of its last 13 contests. The Irish entered the weekend among the “Next Four Out” in ESPN’s bracketology, and that was before a 69-65 victory over Virginia Saturday night. 

Irish head coach Mike Brey said he was pleased with Notre Dame’s efficiency on offense against the Cavaliers. The Irish shot 43.5% from beyond the arc and recorded 16 assists Saturday night.

“We’ve not been able to be that efficient against their program, against their defense,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Virginia shot just over 21% from 3. Notre Dame is 11-0 when shooting better than their opponents from the field. 

The surging Irish have seemingly benefited a wealth of experience this season. Of the seven players who normally feature in the Irish rotation, six are seniors or graduate students. 

One of those seniors is guard Dane Goodwin, who leads the Irish with 15.4 ppg. Goodwin’s 16 points Saturday, which largely came from his 4-6 performance from beyond the arc, continued his streak of scoring in double digits in each game this season. The Upper Arlington, Ohio, native is the only player in the country shooting 50% or better from both the field and beyond the arc while averaging over 15 points per game.

Senior forward Nate Laszewski has been similarly efficient this season and has upped his scoring numbers of late. Laszewski matched Goodwin’s team-high 16 points Saturday and has averaged 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and a three-point percentage of 70% over the last two victories.

While Laszewski did most of his scoring work from beyond the arc Saturday, forward Paul Atkinson Jr. was a crucial interior presence for the Irish Saturday night. The graduate transfer from Yale recorded 14 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block against the Cavaliers, his fifth double-digit scoring performance in nine career ACC games. 

Freshman sensation Blake Wesley was held to 2 of 11 from the field Saturday, though he still posted 14 points after going 8 for 11 from the line. The graduate of South Bend’s Riley High School and three-time ACC Freshman of the Week will look to rebound with a statement performance against the Blue Devils. 

However, Duke has their own freshman phenom in Paolo Banchero, a five-time ACC player of the week who sits atop most 2022 NBA mock drafts. Banchero leads the Blue Devils and all freshmen in the conference with 17.6 ppg and also leads Duke with 8.3 rebounds per game. 

Duke also has one of the best do-it-all players in the conference in junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. The Second-Team Preseason All-ACC selection averages 14.9 ppg and is third in the conference in assists per game (4.6) and field goal percentage (.536). The Charlotte, North Carolina, native also averages 40% from 3 and is one the conference’s best defensive players — Duke’s opponents shoot just .349 from the field and .258 from 3 with when Moore is the primary defender. 

Duke and Notre Dame both won on the other team’s court last season. After losing to the Blue Devils at home last December, the Irish came back from 15 points down to upset Duke 93-89 at Cameron Indoor Stadium behind 28 points from Cormac Ryan in February. 

If Notre Dame manages an upset again Monday, the Irish will remain undefeated at home (9-0 entering the contest) this season and beat Duke in back-to-back games for the first time since 2016. 

Tip-off Monday is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will air on ESPN. 

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