SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — No. 7 Duke couldn’t overcome Jabari Parker looking like a freshman playing his first true road game.
Parker failed to break double figures for the first time this season, finishing with seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, and the Blue Devils struggled defensively in the second half of a 79-77 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, squandering a 10-point lead midway through the second half.
“We stopped playing the defense we were playing,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Duke still had a chance in the final 10 seconds, trailing 77-75 with the ball in the hands of Rodney Hood, who led Duke with 27 points. But he dribbled too deep and had a pass stolen by Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson. Krzyzewski said he would have called timeout, but he liked that Hood was being defended by Notre Dame’s 6-foot-11 center Garrick Sherman.
“We were down by two and you couldn’t draw it up better,” Krzyzewski said. “As soon as we saw the matchup, we knew we were going to get him the ball.”
Hood blamed himself.
“I was supposed to pull through for my team, but it just didn’t happen today,” he said.
Parker, whose previous low was 12 points Tuesday against Elon, didn’t talk to the media after the game. Krzyzewski said he just didn’t play well.
“That is part of being a freshman,” he said. “Hopefully he will recover from that.”
Notre Dame sent a message in its Atlantic Coast Conference debut as Eric Atkins scored 19 points, Pat Connaughton had 16. The victory comes in the wake of leading scorer Jerian Grant’s dismissal from school two weeks ago for an academic violation and provided a much-needed confidence boost as the Irish begin play in their new league.
“It’s really important for our group given the two weeks we’ve had to feel like, ‘Hey, we may still have a shot at this thing.’ Because nobody else thought we had a shot,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Atkins scored seven points during a decisive 20-4 run as Notre Dame rallied from a 10-point deficit and held on to win two weeks after squandering an eight-point lead in the final 50 seconds against No. 3 Ohio State at Madison Square Garden.
“It definitely gives us a lot of life. Everybody’s confidence is up now, winning such a big game,” Atkins said.
The Irish (10-4, 1-0) improved to 13-6 against top-10 teams at home under Brey. It was the first loss in an ACC opener for the Blue Devils (11-3, 0-1) in seven seasons.
Hood said Duke played like an immature team, allowing the Irish to hold the ball for long periods and then score as the shot clock ticked down.
“When we needed a stop, we didn’t get a stop,” Hood said. “We had some balls go in and out, but I can name at least 10 plays where it was a breaking point and we didn’t pull it off.”
Duke used a 9-0 run to open a 49-40 lead early in the second half and stretched the lead to 60-50 when Andre Dawkins made a 3 from the top of the key with about 11 minutes left.
But when Notre Dame went to a small lineup to try to guard the Blue Devils better from behind the arc, Demetrius Jackson hit a 3 to spark the 20-4 run.
“I thought that was the biggest shot of the game,” Krzyzewski said. “If we get a stop, we could have gone up by 12. That was a huge shot.”
Atkins tied the game on a layup, and then followed with another basket inside on a pass from Connaughton. Steve Vasturia, who wasn’t getting much playing time before Grant was dismissed, hit a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 68-64 lead after Parker badly missed a 3.
“That was a huge shot to really make us believe,” Brey said.
The Blue Devils closed within one point twice in the final 2 minutes, but the Irish didn’t wilt under the pressure.
Sherman had 14 points as the Irish outscored Duke 44-16 in the paint. Quinn Cook had 22 points for Duke, which was 12 of 28 from beyond the arc, one shy of its season high.
Brey improved to 1-1 against his former boss.
“It’s a historic day for us, our first ACC game,” Brey said. “To beat a program like Duke’s will always be a great memory for us starting off in Atlantic Coast Conference play.”