The main objective is to the win the ACC Tournament and ultimately a national championship. But Marvin Bagley III might have accomplished something else Thursday night at Barclays Center. He likely clinched being the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
In a town where the Knicks and Nets are starving for talent, Bagley put his on full display, totaling 33 points and 17 rebounds in leading second-seeded Duke to an 88-70 triumph over No. 10-seed Notre Dame. The Blue Devils (26-6) will face North Carolina in the semifinals Friday night.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey picked his poison, deciding to not double-team Bagley in the post. The 6-foot-11 freshman from Phoenix, who was the ACC Player and Rookie of the Year, made the Irish pay dearly. He was 15-of-23 from the floor, including 11-of-12 in the second half, to spark Duke to the easy win.
“Bagley was just the first pick in the draft,” Brey said afterward. “He’s a can’t-miss star in my opinion from what I’ve seen tonight.”
Any NBA scout in the arena would probably agree. Bagley was dominant on both ends the floor, especially in the second half when he scored 23 points and ruined any notion of the kind of comeback Notre Dame staged Wednesday night when it rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat seventh-seeded Virginia Tech, 71-65.
Brey said he didn’t double-team Bagley in the post because “we thought we could absorb the 2s.” But with Bagley doing damage inside and senior Grayson Allen (23 points) owning the perimeter, the Irish didn’t stand a chance.
Duke led 41-37 at halftime after Irish center John Mooney flushed a dunk at the buzzer to cut what had been a nine-point deficit and give Notre Dame some momentum. But Duke didn’t waste any time regaining control early in the second half.
A short jumper by Bagley, a dunk by Wendell Carter Jr. and another runaway dunk by Trevon Duval gave the Blue Devils a 51-41 advantage with 16:03 remaining, forcing Notre Dame to call timeout and regroup. But Bagley was just warming up. He drove the lane with 8:51 remaining and lofted a tough left-handed floater that put Duke up 68-54. Later, Bagley hit a soft jumper over Martinas Geben that lifted Duke to a 72-56 advantage.
Irish senior Bonzie Colson, who missed much of the regular season with a foot injury, tried to rally his team by scoring 18 points. But Notre Dame couldn’t find a spark.
“They’re such an explosive offensive unit and tonight we had no answers,” Brey said. “We couldn’t get enough stops.”
Allen got the Blue Devils off to fast start, scoring 17 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting. The senior then gave way to Bagley in the second half.
“I thought Grayson’s leadership has continued to get better and better and tonight was a great example of him being at his best,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils are a young team that still growing.
“We’re definitely on a roll right now,” Bagley said. “We don’t have it all figured out yet. We’re still learning. But I definitely think that we’re getting better and we’re continuing to grow as a team. There’s not a better time to grow than March when we’re getting into tournaments and stuff like that. It’s a perfect time for us to continue to come together and play at our best.”
Allen especially liked the effort on the defensive end. Notre Dame (20-14) made just 5-of-23 from 3-point range and had 31 defensive rebounds to 20 for the Irish.
“There’s a few things we can do better both offensively and defensively,” Allen said. “But as long as we keep clicking on the defensive side of the ball, we’ll be good.”