South Bend, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - A top-10 matchup is on tap at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday evening, as the eighth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish play host to the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils in a marquee ACC showdown.
Mike Krzyzewski became the first coach in Division I history to reach 1,000 career wins, as his Blue Devils came from behind to post a 77-68 victory over St. John's on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The historic win pushed Duke to 17-2 overall as the team jumps back into ACC action.
Mike Brey's Irish may be looking up at Duke in the Top-25 poll, but it is the Blue Devils (4-2) that are looking up at Notre Dame in the ACC standings. The Irish also posted a dramatic win last time out, edging out NC State in overtime on the road on Sunday, 81-78. With the win, Notre Dame moved to 19-2 overall and 7-1 in-conference, good for a second-place tie with North Carolina and trailing only No. 2 Virginia (7-0).
Duke has dominated this series, winning 19 of the 22 all-time meetings. However, the Irish won the last matchup, a 79-77 victory last year at home. These two teams will meet again in less than two weeks in Durham.
It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Duke ended its game against St. John's with a 26-7 run to come from behind and earn Coach K his 1,000th victory. Freshman Tyus Jones matched his career-high with 22 points, while fellow freshman Jahlil Okafor recorded his sixth double-double of the season, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds. Quinn Cook matched Okafor's scoring output with 17 points of his own, while Amile Jefferson chipped in 11 points in the win.
Duke can win games at either end of the floor, thanks to a roster chock-full of talent. The team is averaging a robust 81.6 ppg this year, while shooting .499 from the field. Okafor has been a monster inside despite his youth. The 6-11, 270-pounder leads the ACC in both scoring (18.5 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.671), while ranking third in rebounding (9.0 rpg). Cook is the team's veteran presence, as the senior guard posts 14.3 ppg and leads the team with 50 3-pointers. Jones is both a scorer (10.7 ppg) and deft distributor (5.1 apg). Yet another freshman, forward Justise Winston (10.5 ppg) gives the team more offensive power.
There aren't many teams in the nation that could win a shootout with Duke, but Notre Dame is one of them. The Irish are as efficient a squad as there is, shooting .521 from the floor (second nationally), leading to 81.9 ppg (ninth nationally). Four of the five starters are averaging double figures, giving the team plenty of balance at the offensive end. Guard Jerian Grant is bucking for All-America honors, as he is both a potent scorer (17.1 ppg) and tremendous facilitator (6.2 apg - 11th nationally). Pat Connaughton adds 13.9 ppg and although he isn't the biggest guy (6-5), he is among the conference's best rebounders (8.3 rpg). Zach Auguste (13.7 ppg) and Demetrius Jackson (13.4 ppg) can fill up the basket as well.
The Irish overcame a 12-point halftime deficit against NC State to tie things up in regulation and then finally moved past the hometown Wolfpack and earn the win at PNC Arena. Five Notre Dame players finished in double figures in the victory, led by Grant's 25 points. Jackson, Connaughton and V.J. Beachem all checked in with 11 points, while Auguste, who had missed some time due to an academic issue, recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.