5 observations from No. 9 Duke men's basketball's first half against Notre Dame

by 24USATVFeb. 8, 2024, 9 a.m. 24
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No. 9 Duke is facing Notre Dame Wednesday night, hoping to start a new winning streak following its Saturday loss at North Carolina. With 20 minutes to go, the Blue Devils are cruising, as they hold a 33-25 lead on the Fighting Irish:

Duke’s last three contests at home haven’t gone as smoothly as hoped for the Blue Devil faithful, with nail-biting, close wins against Georgia Tech and Clemson as well as a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh. However, the Blue Devils found their footing early on against Notre Dame, starting with a 17-0 run early in the first half. Senior captain Jeremy Roach buried a triple to open the Blue Devils’ scoring, while freshman guard Caleb Foster added a triple and a pair of free throws in the middle of the half to extend Duke’s lead to 15.

On the other end of the court, Mark Mitchell and Ryan Young held firm, contesting several shots by the Fighting Irish to keep the Blue Devils’ momentum alive. At one point in the half, the Fighting Irish missed eight straight shots, with four steals from Duke further keeping the team in navy and gold in check. The Fighting Irish committed eight turnovers in the first half, with five of them due to steals by the Blue Devils. In addition, Notre Dame was held to just 31.0% shooting from the floor with only 25 points to its name, further showcasing Duke’s intensity on defense.

The first half saw strong performances form Duke’s backcourt, adding to a pedigree that has developed throughout the season. Freshman Jared McCain provided two early buckets for the home team to kick-start its impressive early run. A perfect lob from Foster led to an emphatic dunk from Sean Stewart to extend Duke’s lead to 12 in the middle of the period. Tyrese Proctor opened his scoring late in the half with a contested layup, matching his scoring total from last Saturday’s contest against North Carolina. A few possessions later, he would exceed it with a pair of free throws, followed by a deep three to bring his total to seven points. Overall, all four of Duke’s primary guards performed well to give the team a solid first half on offense to the tune of 25 total points.

Despite Duke’s strong start, shooting from beyond the arc did not come easy. The Blue Devils went just 3-of-11 from 3-point range, with only a single attempt from the sharpshooter McCain in the half. Notre Dame shot to the exact same clip in an inefficient half of its own. For the first half, Duke’s cold shooting from outside the arc wasn’t much of a problem, though, as it would cash in on 10-of-19 shots from two-point range. Foster’s impact wasn’t just limited to his lob to Stewart, as the Harrisburg, N.C., native led the Blue Devils with nine points in the first period. The freshman knocked down 3-of-5 attempts from the field, which included one of Duke’s three treys in the first period. His surge comes as a nice change of pace for Duke; in the Blue Devils’ previous four contests, Foster combined for just 17 points on an unremarkable 7-of-18 shooting. No player was particularly dominant for either side in the first 20, but Foster provided a steady presence on offense to give Duke a comfortable lead heading into the locker room.

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