Notre Dame rallies past No. 7 Duke to open ACC play
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media January 4, 2014 5:53PM
Notre Dame’s Garrick Sherman (right) and Demetrius Jackson double-team Duke’s Rodney Hood, who scored a game-high 27 points. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Updated: February 6, 2014 6:48AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame’s ACC debut wasn’t going as the team had hoped.
The Irish trailed Duke by 10 with 11:35 left. And the Blue Devils weren’t missing from three-point territory.
But Notre Dame had been through a lot in recent weeks, so a double-digit deficit to a top-10 team didn’t seem all that daunting.
The Irish responded with a thrilling rally, then held on to defeat No. 7 Duke 79-77 Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
“This group has been through some tough stuff since the Ohio State game,” coach Mike Brey said. “For us to come together and win a game like this after being down 10, I’m very proud of them.
“It’s a historic day for us. Our first ACC game and to beat a program like Duke’s will always be a great memory for us starting off in Atlantic Coast Conference play.”
Eric Atkins led the way with 19 points. Demetrius Jackson sealed the victory with a steal and two free throws with 9.6 seconds left to give the Irish (10-4, 1-0 ACC) just enough breathing room to pull off the upset.
Notre Dame’s rough stretch included blowing a late lead at Ohio State, then losing star guard Jerian Grant because of academic reasons.
But the team showed it could bounce back.
“It gives us a lot of life,” Atkins said. “Everybody’s confidence is up after winning such a big game.”
Rodney Hood led Duke (11-3, 0-1) with 27 points. Ex-Simeon star Jabari Parker had seven points and spent most of the stretch on the bench.
“He just wasn’t having a good game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Even without much from Parker, Duke led 60-50 with 11:35 to go.
The Irish responded with a 10-0 run. Atkins made a floater to tie the game with 8:01 left.
Steve Vasturia made a three-pointer and Pat Connaughton followed with a thunderous dunk to give Notre Dame a 70-64 lead with 4:18 left.
Notre Dame led 77-75 with 16 seconds to go when Jackson stepped in front of a Hood pass for a steal. He got fouled and made both free throws. Moments later, the Irish celebrated their first ACC victory.
“This is the team that you’ve got to beat in the ACC,” Brey said, “if you want to kind of feel and look like you belong.”