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No. 9 Duke looks to get right against Notre Dame

Feb 3, 2024; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils head coach Jon Scheyer reacts in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After losing to rival North Carolina last weekend, ninth-ranked Duke has an ideal opportunity to recover.

A stretch of three consecutive home games for the Blue Devils begins on Wednesday against Notre Dame, a team that is tied for last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Duke lost for just the second time in two months when it fell 93-84 on the road against the No. 3 Tar Heels on Saturday.

“We have to learn from this quickly, make no excuses, get back to work,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “And now there’s the second half of ACC play to go. But (Saturday night) was not good enough for me, for our program, for our team.”

Given the outcome, it should be easy for the Blue Devils (16-5, 7-3 ACC) to focus on what’s to come.

“We’ve got to come back Wednesday and get the win,” Duke guard Jeremy Roach said.

Notre Dame, stuck in a six-game losing streak, has more severe problems than Duke. The Fighting Irish (7-15, 2-9) lost 70-60 at Pitt on Saturday.

Despite the results, Notre Dame — which is 1-6 in true road games — has stayed relatively competitive in the current skid. None of the six defeats was by more than 12 points. Yet there are also signs of slippage for the Irish on defense.

“We’ve been a good defensive team for the whole season,” Notre Dame coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “We haven’t been the last three or four games.”

Notre Dame’s Markus Burton has scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games, including a team-high 17 against the Panthers.

As for the Blue Devils, they didn’t react to numerous situations at North Carolina as their coach would have hoped, creating a perplexing performance.

“This is our responsibility,” Scheyer said, “but you have to compete. You still have to bring it. We’ve got to learn from it like we do every game. Take responsibility. That includes coaches, that includes players.”

Part of that will be getting guard Tyrese Proctor on track after a ragged outing — though he did an admirable job defensively on ACC scoring leader RJ Davis. Despite scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting, Proctor helped hold Davis to 5-of-14 shooting and 17 points. Davis averages 21.3 points per game.

“He didn’t have his best game,” Scheyer said of Proctor. “I believe in him. And I really believe in this team. The thing that I’ve said, throughout this year, this group hasn’t gotten it perfect all the time. The core group is back from last year, they always respond. They always respond. I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond.”

Duke, which shot 50 percent or better from the field for the ninth time this season, received a solid effort from freshman guard Jared McCain, who scored 23 points (one shy of his top mark) and grabbed a season-high-tying 11 rebounds.

The approach and production from McCain might be valuable moving forward.

“For me, it’s not about the scoring,” Scheyer said. “It’s about his competitive nature. It’s about how he’s always talking. He’s always upbeat and trying to make plays.”

Duke defeated host Notre Dame 67-59 on Jan. 6, behind Mark Mitchell’s 23 points, for its first road victory of the season. The Blue Devils had to overcome a nine-point, first-half deficit to defeat the Fighting Irish for the 10th time in the past 11 meetings.

–Field Level Media

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