Notre Dame vs. Duke: Halftime thoughts
Unseeded Notre Dame trails No. 5 seed Duke, 3-2, at halftime of the NCAA Tournament final, and improved shot efficiency will be the key for the Fighting Irish (10-6).
Notre Dame has put just three of 19 shots on goal – not nearly enough to test freshman goalkeeper Dan Wigrizer, who made just seven saves in the Blue Devils’ 14-13 win against top-seeded Virginia in the semifinals.
Part of the credit belongs to the Duke defensemen, who are tall and rangy and getting their sticks in the way, but the Fighting Irish have sailed a few high-percentage attempts.
For the Blue Devils, maintaining a lead will depend on getting more contributions from the starting attack. Fifth-year senior Ned Crotty and senior Max Quinzani have an assist each, and junior Zach Howell has scored once. Crotty has been held in check by junior defenseman Kevin Ridgway, Quinzani by senior Mike Creighton, and Howell by sophomore Kevin Randall.
Duke did beat the Cavaliers despite Crotty and Quinzani getting shut out in the first half, but the Blue Devils would probably like to avoid a repeat performance.
*The five goals in the first half ties a NCAA record for fewest goals in a half. In 1980, Johns Hopkins enjoyed a 4-1 lead at the break on Virginia. Two years later, North Carolina had the identical advantage over Johns Hopkins. Both Johns Hopkins in 1980 and North Carolina in 1982 would eventually capture the national championship.
*Face-offs have been fairly even with Notre Dame winning four and Duke taking three. One of the few highlights in the first half was the 40-second scrum between senior Trever Sipperly and senior Sam Payton to begin the second quarter.
*The Blue Devils own a 14-8 advantage in groundballs, but that didn’t mean much in the regular-season meeting between these teams on Feb. 20. Duke collected 42 groundballs to the Fighting Irish’s 27, but Notre Dame walked away with the 11-7 victory.
*The Blue Devils are 10-0 this season when leading at halftime. The Fighting Irish is 1-4 when trailing at the break.