NEW YORK (AP) — Jayson Tatum took over in the final three minutes, making key plays on both ends of the floor, and No. 14 Duke became the first team to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with four wins in four days by rallying to beat No. 22 Notre Dame 75-69 on Saturday night.
The freshman forward finished a spectacular week in Brooklyn with 19 points and eight rebounds for the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (27-8). Duke won its first ACC Tournament championship since 2011 and its 20th overall, most in league history.
Bonzie Colson was a beast for third-seeded Notre Dame (25-9), with 29 points and nine rebounds.
The Blue Devils came from double digits down in the second half to beat both No. 10 Louisville and No. 6 North Carolina to get to the finals at Barclays Center and then came from eight back with 11:35 left to defeat the Irish.
Tatum made a running hook to give Duke a 65-62 lead, but Colson’s 3-pointer with 2:25 left tied it.
Tatum hit one of two free throws to put Duke back in front, then came through with the play of the night. Or make that, the plays of the night.
He blocked Steve Vasturia’s drive to the hoop and then went coast to coast for a layup to make it 68-65 with 1:33 left. Matt Farrell pulled Notre Dame within two with a couple of free throws before Tatum showed off another skill, driving and dishing to Matt Jones for a 3 to make it 71-67 with 50 seconds remaining. It was Jones’ only basket of the game.
Tatum then all but sealed it, getting behind the defense on in inbounds pass from Jones for a slam while being fouled. Tatum completed the three-point play for a 74-69 advantage with 25 seconds left.
Luke Kennard had 16 points for Duke and was selected tournament MVP, but it was really Tatum’s time to shine. He scored 69 points in the first three games.
Duke: The Blue Devils started the season No. 1 in the country for the eighth time and will head to the NCAA Tournament as ACC Tournament champions for the 20th time. What has transpired in between for the Blue Devils has been anything but routine.
There was Grayson Allen’s suspension for tripping an opponent and the intense scrutiny on him that has followed. Coach Mike Krzyzewski missed seven games early in the conference season to have back surgery. Soon after he left, the Blue Devils lost three of four to start 3-4 in ACC play. The nadir was the program’s first loss to North Carolina State at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995.
After that game there was a report by ESPN that Coach K, still recovering, held a meeting at his home with players, and forbade them to use their locker room or wear Duke gear. Who knows whether there was a direct correlation, but Duke won seven straight from that point on.
Allen then hurt his ankle and the Blue Devils finished the regular season losing three of four. They came to Brooklyn as the fifth seed and a flawed team.
Now it all seems to be coming together.
Notre Dame: The Irish can look no further than their 6-for-25 performance from 3-point range to explain why they came up short. VJ Beachem and Farrell each went 1 for 6. That’s a tough way for a team that usually shoots 39 percent from 3 to win.
Duke: How far will the Blue Devils’ late surge push them up the NCAA seed chart? A No. 1 seed has never had as many as eight losses.
Notre Dame: Another NCAA Tournament awaits the Irish. They have reached the round of eight the last two years.