DURHAM — Duke got a spark from an unlikely hero on Monday night.
With an undermanned Notre Dame team focusing its defense on shutting down freshman superstars Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned to his bench — and a player who never took off his warmups against the Cavaliers.
Sophomore Jack White, who, outside of two extended stints at the end of blowouts of winless Pitt had logged just 12 minutes of play in ACC games this year, sparked an 18-0 second-half run that put away the Irish in an 88-66 blowout.
“Jack, what a great thing,” Krzyzewski said. “You don’t get a chance to see that very much. We saw it when that Grayson Allen kid was a freshman in the National Championship game, where somebody you don’t expect all of a sudden not only plays well, but he sparks you.”
White, a power forward from Australia, battled for rebounds, while his higher-profile teammates were being boxed out and contained. His offensive rebound that set up a Gary Trent Jr. 3-pointer sent Krzyzewski running onto the court to chest bump him during a timeout.
On Duke’s next offensive possession, White spotted up and knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner, just the second of his college career, that had his teammates laughing and smiling while they set up on defense at the other end.
White wasn’t done, however. He pulled down defensive rebounds on four consecutive possessions, as Duke turned a 12-point lead into 30.
“I just had a lot of adrenaline from the crowd,” White said. “Obviously my teammates were helping me out a lot. I was just trying to play off instincts, play hard, and have fun, and I was fortunate to have some plays go my way. I just kept trying to feed off that.”
When the dust had cleared, White had five points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes and a breakout game for the ages.
“You obviously can’t go without mentioning Jack White, who gave us an incredible spark off the bench,” said Grayson Allen, who had a bounce-back game himself, scoring 18 with eight assists. “That was huge. It seemed like every rebound was coming his way, he was going after every offensive rebound, and then knocking down shots and attacking too. It was great.”
Afterward, teammates chanted his name and stood on chairs to get video while White met with the first media horde of his career. He was also asked to speak to ESPN before leaving the court, another career first.
“How happy our guys were for him,” Krzyzewski said. “Look, Saturday was a tough loss for us. We felt that we could’ve won that game. That hurt, and you worry about a hangover.”
White provided just the shot of energy that the team needed, however, and at just the right time.
“At that point in the game, you’re thinking guys are supposed to be getting a little worn down, and that’s when a spark like that off the bench is huge,” Allen said, “because no one’s thinking about how tired they are when you’re excited about your teammate coming in and doing something like that. That was a huge pick-me-up and really gave us the energy to go on that run to finish out the game.”
About the only thing White couldn’t provide on the evening was the touching story about family at home in Australia, waiting up in the wee hours of the night to watch him have the game of his life.
“There’s a 16-hour difference,” White said. “It’s 11 in the morning over there. I hope they’re all at work, not watching my game.”