But don’t tell Mike Brey that. Coach Brey formulated a game plan that allowed ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor to essentially score at will, while neutralizing the Blue Devils outside shooting. For a team known for its superb offense, the Irish won their first two games in this tournament on the heels of great defense.
But the offense didn’t sit out this one, evident by the 41-26 lead the Irish took into halftime. The undersized Irish took it right into the paint against Duke, challenging their low block supremacy. Advantage Bonzie Colson in the first half.
The ever improving freshman scored 14 in the first half, and a team known for its ability to shoot the three hit on only 2-of-8. But they didn’t need to outscore Duke. Essentially, just Okafor.
The big freshman score 28 points, looking every bit of the ACC POTY, but that was also somewhat by design. By not doubling down and allowing kick out passes for three’s, the Irish offense only needed to be consistent.
It was indeed that, as six players had at least eight, Colson led with 17 points. They didn’t need one particular guy to step up late, as the team’s defense was the biggest surprise of the night. But when that time arose, it was senior Pat Connaughton hitting a fade away jumper as the shot clock expired that may have been the dagger.
Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook, who some believe are the best backcourt in the nation (which no one here agrees with), shot a combined 6-of-25 on the night. Even allowing Okafor to score as he did on 13-of-18, Duke shot only 45 percent as a team from the field.
Last night, after the Miami victory–Brey had this to say.
“I told Seth Greenberg coming off the court, I really feel like we’re in the ACC now,” Brey said. “To come out (Friday) night in the semifinals with three of the long-standing, founding members of the ACC, I feel like we’re in it. It’s a proud moment for us.” h/t Tim Prister, IrishIllustrated.com
After so many years of coming up short of playing on the weekend in the Big East tourney, in just their second year the Irish will play for the title. Not bad for the team that was literally the first one out last year.
Be proud coach. Well deserved