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Duke vs. Notre Dame final score: 3 things we learned from the Irish's season-defining win

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Notre Dame defended its home court to beat Duke with a huge run in the second half.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is rarely thought of as a basketball powerhouse, but a hot start in ACC play gave Wednesday night's contest against Duke some added significance. This was a rare game featuring two teams ranked in the top 10 of the polls played in front of an electric atmosphere in South Bend. It ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the season.

Notre Dame wiped away a 10-point second half deficit behind some huge plays from star guard Jerian Grant to beat Duke 76-72 at the Joyce Center.

Grant's crunch-time takeover included a circus shot to put Notre Dame up three, a great feed to to Steve Vasturia for a three-pointer from the corner and a block on the end to help seal the win. When the final whistle sounded, Grant had 23 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Zach Auguste added 14 points and six rebounds while Pat Connaughton had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame. The Irish closed on a 22-8 run to pick up the victory.

Four Duke starters finished in double-figures, led by 22 points from Jahlil Okafor.

No. 8 Notre Dame moves to 20-2 in the win, while No. 4 Duke falls to 17-3. Here are three things we learned in the game:

1. Jerian Grant is one of the very best guards in college basketball

You probably knew this already if you've been paying attention, but an ESPN2 showcase game against one of the country's proudest programs is a good reminder. The Irish fell apart when Grant was kicked off the team last season, and it's no coincidence they're one of the best teams in the country this season now that their lead guard is back.

Grant was incredible in the first half and got even better in the second half. At times, it felt like he could pull up from wherever he wanted to find the bottom of the net:

2. Jahlil Okafor is the biggest matchup problem in college basketball

Okafor went down midway through the first half with an apparent leg injury, momentarily sending the GM of every bad NBA team into a state of shock. He exited but would quickly return to show whatever was ailing him wasn't going to stop him.

Notre Dame is a good team, but they have no one on the roster with a prayer of staying with the Duke center. He's just too big and too strong and too skilled for anyone in America, and that goes doubly for an Irish squad that lacks size.

Okafor's final numbers were huge, but he still missed a bunch of bunnies. Duke can count on the fact that he won't miss close range shots like he did on Wednesday very often.

3. This was a great advertisement for the sport

So much of the coverage around college basketball this season has been focused on how to make the sport better. Scoring is down, teams are playing too slow, refs are ruining the pace of the game with too many fouls. There's a lot of truth to that, but this game was a shining example of how much fun college hoops can be when you get two skilled offensive teams who know how to put the ball in the basket.

Duke has been one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country for the last few years. Notre Dame has built itself in that image this year, putting at least four and at times shooters on the floor at once. The result was a game freewheeling game in which both teams shot well from the field and combined to hit 15 three-pointers.

If every college basketball game was as good as this one, there would be no more complaining.