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  • Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) puts up a shot against Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) dunks the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward V.J. Beachem (3) puts up a shot against Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Duke players hold up the championship trophy after beating Notre Dame 75-69 in an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) puts up a shot against Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia (32) motions after hitting a 3-point shot against Duke Blue in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Duke Blue Devils forward Harry Giles (1) blocks a shot attempt by Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (35) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

  • Duke Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen (3) passes the ball over Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Ryan (4) to Duke forward Harry Giles in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game during the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
March 12, 2017 1:02 AM

Notre Dame falls to Duke in ACC championship game

Michael J. Lewis | For The Journal Gazette

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – With both teams exhausted, 18,000 people on their feet and screaming, Duke and Notre Dame both needed a hero Saturday night in the ACC championship game.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Duke found one first, and made history in the process.

Freshman forward Jayson Tatum dominated the final moments of a thrilling game at Barclays Center and cold Irish 3-point shooting ended up killing Notre Dame’s dreams of a second ACC title in three years.

Tatum and the Blue Devils, playing their fourth game in four days, defeated Notre Dame, 75-69.

“What a great final. It was a great college game,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They made some big shots and big plays. I tip my hat to Duke.”

Despite brilliance from Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson (29 points, nine rebounds), who sustained an ankle injury late in the game, Duke became the first team in league history to win four games in four days and grab the title, its first ACC Tournament win since 2011.

After trailing for most of the game, Notre Dame (25-9) came out strong in the second half and rode Colson to take an eight-point lead, 56-48, with 11:35 left. At that point the Irish fans, badly outnumbered in the arena, leapt to their feet and could figuratively taste Notre Dame’s second ACC championship in three seasons.

Colson was able to get position inside on Duke’s interior players and scored at will until suffering an twisted ankle with just more than eight minutes left.

“That was one of the great performances in championship game history,” Brey said. “What he did willing us and keeping us in it and making big plays and chasing down loose balls, it’s a great, great performance.”

But down eight, Duke (27-8) chipped away and in the final two minutes, Tatum, a consensus NBA lottery pick, took over. With 2:54 left he made a jumper to put Duke up by three, but Colson answered with a 3-pointer of his own to knot the game at 65.

Tatum then drove and got fouled, sank one free throw, then blocked a shot and followed up with a coast-to-coast layup through three Irish defenders for a 68-65 Duke edge. Tatum finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Luke Kennard, the Tournament MVP, hit for 16 and Amile Jefferson scored 14.

“If he (Tatum) is not the No. 1 pick (in the NBA Draft), I gotta meet the guy who is,” Brey said. “What’s shocking is how big he is; he gets up over top of people.”

Notre Dame couldn’t recover from there, and when the Blue Devils’ Matt Jones, who’s been in an awful shooting slump (he’d gone 132 game minutes without a field goal), drilled a 3-pointer from the right side with 48 seconds left to put Duke up 71-67, it was the exclamation point on the victory.

The Irish, who had won their last seven games in this building, were hurt by their inability to hit 3-pointers. Notre Dame was 6-for-25 from 3-point range, and 2-for-13 in the second half.

“We got the usual great looks we’re used to getting” said V.J. Beachem, a New Haven graduate. “We might have been a little tired, but we just didn’t knock them down.”

“Matt (Farrell) did a great job of getting guys open and finding them,” said Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia. “We thought when we were ahead by eight we were in good shape.”

Notre Dame will now wait to see where they’ll be placed in the NCAA Tournament; the Irish can expect to be anywhere from a 3-6 seed.

“Thank God the Selection Show is in, what – not long. What day is it?” Brey said with a laugh. “Now we need to get Bonzie and the other guys a little rest. I hope we don’t play until Friday.”

Beachem had 15 points for the Irish, while Matt Farrell added 13 points and seven assists.