Irish make ACC debut against seventh-ranked Blue Devils

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Updated: 1/04 11:06 am

South Bend, IN ( - The Notre Dame Fighting Irish begin their first run through the ACC with a daunting task, as they play host to the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils on Saturday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion.

Mike Brey's squad closed out its non-conference slate with an 87-81 overtime win against Canisius last weekend. The win was the second in the last three games for Notre Dame and moved the team to 9-4 on the season.

Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are usually one of the favorites to win the ACC and this year is no different. Duke is an impressive 11-2 on the season with the two losses coming against fellow powerhouses Kansas and Arizona. The Blue Devils bring some momentum into league play with a five-game win streak intact, including an 86-48 blasting of Elon in Greensboro to close out the 2013 calendar year.

This marks the first meeting between these two teams since the 2002 NCAA Tournament. Duke has won 11 straight meetings in the series and leads 19-2 overall.

Freshman phenom Jabari Parker scored a season-low 12 points, but did record his fourth double-double of the season, grabbing 10 rebounds in Duke's lopsided win over Elon last time out. Andre Dawkins led the way with 15 points and continued his torrid shooting from behind the arc, knocking down 5-of-7 3- point attempts. Rodney Hood (13 pts), Quinn Cook (11 pts) and Rasheed Sulaimon (11 pts) added to the scoring deluge for Duke.

Parker is not only the top freshman in the nation, but may be the best player in the nation overall, with his ability to perform both inside and out. The 6- foot-8 youngster is shooting .528 from the floor, .455 from behind the arc and leads the team in both scoring (21.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Hood fills up the basket at a high rate as well, posting 17.2 ppg on .525 shooting. The game runs through the hands of Cook, who can both score (13.5 ppg) and distribute (6.3 apg). One of the top offensive teams in the country, Duke is averaging 85.2 ppg on an impressive .502 shooting.

The Irish have had a strong offensive showing this season, as they enter league play averaging 80.1 ppg on .475 shooting. Notre Dame also enjoys positive rebounding (+5.2) and turnover (+1.9) margins. The team is short- handed however, as Jerian Grant, the leading scorer (19.0 ppg) and distributor (6.2 apg) is out for the rest of the season due to academics. The loss will force Garrick Sherman (14.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Pat Connaughton (13.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Eric Atkins (13.2 ppg) to take on more of the offensive burden going forward.

The Irish were able to overcome a half-time deficit and come out with a win for the first time this season, edging out the Golden Griffins in overtime. Atkins netted a team-high 30 points in the win, hitting six 3-pointers. Sherman complemented with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Zach Auguste added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

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