Duke fell below .500 for the first time since November 1999 on Tuesday, when it lost 93-89 to Notre Dame for its third straight defeat and sixth loss in the last eight games. The Blue Devils (7-8, 5-6 ACC) allowed a season-high 93 points in the game just three days after allowing North Carolina to score 91.
The Blue Devils started the 1999-2000 season 0-2 with losses to No. 13 Stanford and No. 1 UConn before rallying to finish the season 29-5 with a loss to Florida in the Sweet 16. That was the last time the program has been below .500, and there will almost certainly will be no such rally this season.
Duke entered Tuesday’s action ranked No. 70 on the NET and squarely on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, and the loss to Notre Dame serves as another crushing blow in a season that has gone wayward. The Blue Devils have not missed the NCAA Tournament since 1995 but will need a stunning rally to avoid missing the Big Dance this season. No. 9 Virginia is the only ranked team left on Duke’s schedule as its currently constructed.
Especially cruel for the Blue Devils is that the straight defeats have come by a combined 10 points. Duke led Notre Dame 23-8 early and 50-45 at halftime but went cold offensively late in the game while again plagued by poor execution in a clutch situation. Wendell Moore Jr. led Duke with 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Blue Devils shot an impressive 52.2% from the floor and made 10-of-22 3-pointers.
But defense was their problem. Notre Dame made 11-of-25 3-pointers and turned the ball over just seven times while shooting 55.2% overall from the floor. Cormac Ryan led the Fighting Irish with a game-high 28 points. Notre Dame (8-10, 5-7) has now won three of its last four games.