DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Vernon Carey Jr. scored 21 points, Tre Jones added 19 and No. 7 Duke used a high-intensity man-to-man defense to beat Notre Dame 94-60 Saturday for its seventh straight win.
With No. 5 Louisville losing to Clemson, the win vaulted the Blue Devils (22-3, 12-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) into sole possession of first place in the ACC standings, one-half game ahead of the Cardinals.
Duke’s relentless defensive pressure rattled an opponent that’s usually steady on offense, leading to the lopsided score. Notre Dame entered the game averaging 9.75 turnovers per game, fewest in the nation, but turned the ball over nine times in the first half. The Irish (15-10, 6-8) had success when they were able to get the ball inside to Juwan Durham, whose 21 points marked a career high, and John Mooney, who scored 19.
But just as often, the Blue Devils’ defense pushed Notre Dame far from the basket, forced a turnover and was off to the races in transition. The Blue Devils outscored Notre Dame 13-0 on the fast break in the first half and 24-7 for the game.
If a fast-break opportunity didn’t present itself, the Blue Devils delivered the ball to Carey on the block, where neither Mooney nor Durham could stop him. Carey shot 8 of 10 from the field and took control of the game after the Blue Devils led just 20-19 with eight minutes to play in the first half.
Carey made a left-handed hook shot, scored on a post-up, and sank a 3-pointer from in front of the Notre Dame bench as Duke scored nine straight points to stretch its lead to 29-19.
Notre Dame had won four in a row before losing a heartbreaker in overtime Tuesday at Virginia but was well out of contention by midway through the second half Saturday. The Irish’s backcourt players particularly had a dreadful day, as T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger combined to shoot 0 of 13 from the field with zero points.
A deafening cheer from Duke’s fans early in the second half Saturday heralded the entrance of New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson, who played for the Blue Devils last season and made the trip back to Durham from Chicago after playing in the NBA Rising Stars game Friday night. ... Mooney, who entered the game tied for first in the nation with 20 double-doubles, fell just short of another as he finished with nine rebounds to go with his 19 points. ... Carey has scored at least 20 points in four of his last nine games.
Notre Dame: Plays its first home game since Feb. 5 against North Carolina.
Duke: Visits N.C. State on Wednesday.