Grant sparks No. 8 Notre Dame to 77-73 victory over Duke
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) In a match of player-of-the-year candidates, Jerian Grant made more clutch plays for eighth-ranked Notre Dame than Jahlil Okafor did for fourth-ranked Duke.
Grant finished with 23 points and 12 assists and in the final 67 seconds hit a jumper just as the shot clock expired, fired a pass to a wide-open Steve Vasturia for a 3 from the corner just as the shot clock expired then blocked a layup attempt as the Irish rallied from 10-points down to win 77-73.
''He loves the moment,'' Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. ''He's such a bright lights, big-stage guy. He is really clutch.''
Grant sparked the winning rally when he lost control of the ball at the free-throw line as the shot clock was running down, grabbed it at the last second and hit the basket to give the Irish a 73-70 lead.
''It's a heck of a bucket,'' said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who won his 1,000th game on Sunday. ''A fortunate bucket, but a heck of a bucket.''
Grant added six rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. On the pass to set up the 3-pointer, Grant looked as though he was holding for the last shot when he suddenly passed to Vasturia in the corner. It was the only basket Vasturia made all night.
''The best thing about him is, he's going to attack, but he's not going to attack with tunnel vision just to get to the basket,'' Pat Connaughton said. ''Everyone on this team knows that he's going to make the right play, the winning play, and he did that.''
A year ago the struggling Irish stunned No. 7 Duke 79-77 by holding standout freshman Jabari Parker to a season-low seven points. The Irish couldn't do the same against Okafor, who, like Parker, is from Chicago, just 90 miles west of South Bend. Okafor was a point shy of a double-double at halftime and finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
But he was 2-of-7 from the free throw line, including 1-of-5 in the final 4:30.
''Jah had a heck of a game,'' Krzyzewski said. ''If he hit those free throws then we'd be talking about Jah having the amazing game, not Grant. But Jah had a great game.''
The win keeps Notre Dame (20-2, 8-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which finished in 13th place in its first season in the league last year, in second-place halfway through the conference season. Duke (17-3, 4-3) is off to its worst start in league play since opening the 1995-96 3-4 after losing their first four league games.
The Blue Devils didn't come up with enough big plays against the Irish, finishing with 13 offensive rebounds but had just nine second-chance points.
''We'll look at this as some missed opportunities,'' Krzyzewski said. ''There were six to eight finishes right by the bucket where the ball wouldn't go in.''
Zach Auguste added 14 points and six rebounds for the Irish, Pat Connaughton added 13 points and 12 rebounds and Demetrius Jackson had 10 points. Quinn Cook had 15 points for Duke, Tyus Jones 14 and Justin Winslow 13.
Brey, an assistant at Duke for eight seasons, beat Krzyzewski for the second straight time. He's the only former assistant to beat Krzyzewski. Overall, Krzyzewski is 19-2 against former assistants. ''I don't really look at it like that,'' Brey said. ''It's about our team now.''
Duke: The Blue Devils failed in their attempt to win three games against top 10 opponents on the road for the first time in program history. They beat then-No. 2 Wisconsin 80-70 on Dec. 3 and then-No. 6 Louisville 63-52 on Jan. 17. ... Okafor scored in double figures for the 20th straight game. ...
Notre Dame: The Irish improved to 6-1 at home against top 10 teams at home since 2010, with the only loss coming against then-No. 3 Virginia earlier this month. ... The Irish are 14-7 overall under coach Mike Brey against top 10 teams at home. ... Notre Dame is 6-1 this season in games decided by five points or fewer. ... It was Notre Dame's 600th home victory since the Joyce Center opened since the building opened during the 1968-69 season. The Irish are 600-157 at home in that span.
Duke: at No. 2 Virginia on Saturday.
Notre Dame: at Pittsburgh on Saturday.