Another Saturday, another fantastic offensive basketball game involving the Irish. This time, ND surprised Duke, in Cameron, despite a game filled with “mystery calls” and multiple Duke flops. Before the game, I tweeted that the Irish needed to do four things in order to come out of Cameron with a W: 1) aggressive Demetrius; 2) possessed Bonz; 3) Auguste dominating Plumlee; and 4) not allowing a 45-4 run. For those not aware, last year ND jumped out to a 6-0 lead at Cameron before Duke went on an absolutely astonishing 45-4 run, leading to a 30-point rout.
Well, 3 of the 4 keys came to fruition, and while Auguste struggled for the majority of the game, 14 rebounds and two huge FTs to ice it are nothing to sneeze at. But the story was the 31 points and 11 rebounds off the bench from the Bonz, which made sure that a repeat of last year would not be in store.
In honor of Bonz’s 31 points, here are the 31 things (yes 31…I can’t help it, I’m excited) to take away from ND’s biggest win of the year to date.
1. Let’s start with Bonz and get his epic performance out of the way. I wondered how he would take the move back to the bench, and against GT, he didn’t really seem to take it personally like I thought he would. But man, the Bonz was absolutely possessed yesterday. His first seven rebounds were all on the offensive glass. He was able to score at will over Brandon Ingram, and importantly, managed to get Ingram in foul trouble early in the 2nd half. He even drained two triples, including one that led to a smirk and a few words toward the Duke bench. What a fun player to watch, and I really hope we are witnessing the rise of one of the all-time ND greats.
2. DJ is really finding his groove. I thought we were watching a replay over and over again as Jackson probed the lane and finished at the rim around and over Marshall Plumlee. The control he showed yesterday as he drove it into the lane, with the ability to change directions in an instant to get the defense on it’s heels, is what the Irish were missing and desperately needed from him entering ACC play. In Coach K’s post-game presser, he indicated there may not be a better guard in America than DJ…which is certainly high praise from one of the all-time great coaches. 14 of his 16 shots were from inside the arc. His most important two shots may have been at the end of the 1st half: 1) the ridiculous high-arcing fadeaway and 2) the leaner at the buzzer that pulled the Irish within 5.
3. Mike Brey has Coach K’s number. 4-1 against Duke since entering the ACC. Coach K’s assistants are now 4-21 in head to head matchups (all four wins by Brey). The man simply knows how to coach.
4. Speaking of Brey, he was visibly and understandably fired up about the officiating in the 1st half. The Irish were getting whistled for every touch, while Duke was reaching, hacking and fouling without any consequences. One sequence that stood out to me was Kennard’s “strip” of Vasturia and score, while the replay showed Kennard clearly hammering down on both of Steve’s arms to knock the ball loose. In typical Mike Brey candor in the TV interview as the 1st half ended, he wondered if the Irish would get some of the “mystery calls” that Duke was getting. Love Brey.
5. Going into yesterday’s game, the Irish averaged 15 fouls per game. They were whistled for 8 in the first 8 minutes. At half the fouls were: ND 12, Duke 6. The fouls were really the only difference in the 1st half, as both teams were trading buckets.
6. If anyone ever claims that Duke doesn’t coach flopping, they should immediately be banned from talking about college basketball ever again. On one drive, Marshall Plumlee looked like he was hit by a ghost truck trying to get a charge when there was absolutely ZERO contact. Thankfully, the refs didn’t buy it in the 2nd half, and an attempted late flop ended up costing the Dookies. On Bonz’s and-1 in the final minute to take a 91-89 lead, Kennard slid across the lane and hit the ground like a professional wrestler attempting to sell a move. They get the majority of these calls, but those two acting jobs were prototypical Duke.
7. Here’s Plumlee’s flop for your entertainment.
8. Vasturia continues to play his best basketball against quality opponents. As good as DJ was scoring at the rim, Vasturia also scored multiple buckets off layups. It didn’t hurt that was he on fire from deep as well. Grayson Allen ended up with 18 points and 6 assists, but you didn’t hear much from him in the 2nd half mostly due to Steve’s solid defense. Didn’t come off the floor, and put together another exceptional performance.
9. Matt Ryan struggled in his second start, but Coach K always tries to make ND beat them inside the arc. Only got up 1 shot in 17 minutes. Doesn’t worry me one bit.
10. On the other hand, V.J. is in a slump. 1-3, 2 points, 4 fouls in 17 minutes. According to Bilas, Brey challenged V.J. to guard Brandon Ingram, and that resulted in almost immediate foul trouble. Missed a couple wide open triples that he typically knocks down. Look for Brey to try to get him going Wednesday against the Hokies, as he has only attempted 6 shots in the last two games.
11. Z.A. did some really good things in this one, but his inability to finish around the basket almost came back to bite the Irish. He missed multiple layups, including some left-handed finger rolls that were maddening. I think he probably knows that he needs to be stronger with the ball around the rim, as his best move of the game that resulted in a score and foul resulted not in celebration but a “finally” reaction. Again 14 rebounds and the late FTs were very encouraging.
12. Let’s get back to more of the positives. Rex Pflueger is going to be a player. Sticks his nose in their defensively, hit an enormous three to give the Irish a 6-point lead with three minutes to go, and his biggest play (to me): challenging for the rebound after Matt Jones missed the three at 91-89, which allowed Vasturia to grab the loose ball. This guy has a lot of Connaughton in him.
13. Speaking of the triple that Pflueger hit at the end of the shot clock, only Duke gets an immediate stoppage of play to check to make sure that it left his hand before the shot clock buzzer.
14. Another “only Duke” moment: at ND 88-87, Grayson Allen drove the lane, missed a contested layup over Auguste, and after the ref saw that he missed, a foul was called on Auguste. Bilas immediately commented that Auguste needed to watch himself, because he was understandably upset about the call. Well, don’t you think ESPN would have showed us a replay of a call that made Zach so furious? Of course they didn’t show it. I went back and watched it, and I still don’t see how this foul was called. After this foul, Doug Gottlieb even commented about the whistles…
15. Kennard’s move that caused Rex to fall over, looked like more of a trip. Still, that kid can really shoot it.
16. To the stats: Irish outrebounded Dook 38-33, including 16 offensive boards.
17. Only 6 turnovers for the Irish (2 in the 2nd half). Another stat evidencing how good Demetrius was yesterday.
18. ND is now 13th in the country in assist/turnover ratio (1.6). Yesterday, 13 assists and 6 turnovers. This continues to improve, and I’ll be shocked if they aren’t in the Top 10 at the end of the year.
19. The Irish were 80% from the line (16-20). Big time improvement from earlier in the year.
20. Torres and Farrell didn’t get any PT again, which isn’t surprising with the type of game it was. Torres will play some meaningful minutes as conference play continues. As predicted a few weeks ago in this blog, not so sure about Farrell though with Rex’s emergence.
21. Colson started the 2nd half, as Brey went with the hot hand. While the 4 guard, 1 big lineup will be out there most of the time for the Irish going forward, Bonz just cannot get only 17 minutes like he did against GT.
22. DJ’s block of Plumlee was pretty awesome. (Couldn’t find a GIF, but will insert if I do). He continues to victimize 7-footers.
23. Irish brought the Gold jerseys back out, and they apparently still have some magic left in them.
24. Of course the Irish putting a huge winning streak together would be great, but the major story could be the development of Brey’s beard.
25. ND’s win was only the 8th time an unranked opponent has won at Cameron in the last 20 years.
26. Why couldn’t Bonz have scored only 25 points…
27. In the first 4 minutes, Plumlee had a moving screen (not called), travel (not called), and pushed Auguste in the back on a layup attempt (not called). That’s a Duke big man trifecta.
28. Thank you for the beer, Mike. See our Saturday picks as the Irish +8.5 evened up the beer bets.
29. Matt Jones really helped out the Irish with his “glory hog” three-point attempt with the Irish up 91-89. I bet Coach K was less than thrilled with that shot, especially with much better options in Ingram, Allen and Kennard. I certainly was thrilled with the shot!
30. Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton were active on Twitter during the game, which was fun. Here are a few of their comments:
31. Big time trap game on Wednesday as Virginia Tech comes to town. Buzz has a pretty solid team, and hopefully the Irish can avoid a letdown and get to 4-2 in the ACC.