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Duke 73 Syracuse 54

In the ACC's newest rivalry, Duke has now won three of four and lost one, barely, in overtime.

Feb 28, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) and Syracuse Orange forward Rakeem Christmas (25) scramble for a rebound in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
Feb 28, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) and Syracuse Orange forward Rakeem Christmas (25) scramble for a rebound in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke ran its winning streak to nine and its overall record to 26-3 with a drama-free 73-54 victory over Syracuse Saturday evening.

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Duke's offense was hit or miss much of the night. But the defense was superb, a welcome contrast to Wednesday's disinterested effort in Blacksburg.

Syracuse was coming into Cameron off an upset win at Notre Dame, so they certainly were dangerous enough to get Duke's full attention.

Duke started its small lineup, with Justise Winslow at power forward and Matt Jones at small forward. Duke played some zone but mostly man-to-man with Matt Jones on Trevor Cooney and 6-2 Quinn Cook on 6-7 Michael Gbinije, who toasted Duke for 27 points the last time the teams met.

Matt Jones said Duke has to "fight human nature every day. Coach really got into us [after Virginia Tech] . As a team we know that we knew we were lazy in the Virginia Tech game at points. Against Virginia Tech we thought we could outscore them and not have to play defense and they got hot and hit some 3s and we had to hunker down."

No such problem today. Mike Krzyzewski said Duke had a lot of defensive goals, keeping Gbinije out of the lane, hounding Cooney and holding down Rakeem Christmas.

Duke accomplished all three goals. "Our ball-screen defense was very good," Krzyzewski said.

" A lot of that had to do with how well we switched."

Duke used Tyus Jones to drop into the lane, keeping Gbinije away from the basket, a tactic made easier by the absence of scoring options from Syracuse's point guards. Gbinije scored 12 points but had to take 20 shots to get them; he made only five of them.

While this was going on, Matt Jones became Cooney's shadow. "We didn't want him to catch the ball," Jones said. "To hold him down was great for the team."

Cooney ended with 13 points but nine of those came in the final 3:16 after Duke took its biggest lead, at 66-44.

It did take Duke some time to bring its offense up to the level of its defense. Duke was sloppy early, turning it over seven times in the first eight minutes.

Tyus Jones was responsible for several of those, twice unsuccessfully trying to hit Winslow with lobs for dunks. Jones called the turnovers "sloppy, careless mistakes. I just tried to get back to the game plan but stay aggressive at the same time. Our spacing got a lot better."

That and some poor foul shooting--more on that later--enabled the visitors to hang around for most of the first half. Duke took the lead for good at 17-14 when Matt Jones connected on the game's first 3-pointer.

Winslow followed with a 3-pointer of his own, then on an offensive rebound, then a lay-up of a Cook assist then another off a Jahlil Okafor assist. Nine points for Winslow in less than five minutes and Duke was up 26-18.

It never got closer than five points after that. Duke led 34-25 at the half despite committing nine turnovers and shooting two for 10 from downtown. The defense was that good, holding Syracuse to 9 for 31 (29 percent) from the field, while forcing 10 turnovers.

Syracuse cut the lead to seven three times early in the second half but never seriously threatened a Duke lead that kept growing and growing. Rakeem Christmas committed a couple of needless fouls early in the second half and eventually fouled out with 9:42 left, with 11 points and five rebounds.

Winslow continued to effectively attack the basket, while Okafor dominated the glass. Quinn Cook missed all but one of his eight 3-pointers but proved he's more than just a one-trick pony, scoring off dribbles, from the foul line and even on an offensive rebound.

"I know I'm not going to hit every shot every game," Cook said. " I wanted to get in the paint a little bit and get it going for everybody else."

Winslow led everyone with 23 points, while Okafor added 13 points and 14 rebounds, for his 11th double-double of the season. Cook scored 17 points, while Tyus Jones had nine points, six rebounds, six assists and six turnovers.

Syracuse placed four players in double figures, led by Tyler Robinson with 16. But their big three of Christmas, Gbinije and Cooney combined for 13 of 42 from the field.

"Our defense was terrific tonight," Krzyzewski said. "It was not very good at Virginia Tech. Tonight it was excellent."


Okafor went 1 for 7 from the line. He's now 5-22 over his last three games. Krzyzewski said that confidence was a concern for Okafor but that Duke had to have the ball in his hands down the stretch to do well in March. His bad ankle has kept him from practicing as much as Duke would like but Krzyzewski left little doubt that Duke needs to fix this.

Okafor did score in double figures for the 28th time this season, every game he's played. This is an ACC freshman record and the longest current streak in the league by anyone.

Winslow continued his hot streak. He's scored 58 points in Duke's last three games and has scored in double figures in his last 10 games.

A freshman has led (or tied) Duke in scoring in 21 of Duke's 28 games this season.

Cook extended his streak of games with a made 3-pointer to 39. Cook is currently eighth on the ACC's all-time list in this category and could move into the top four if Duke goes deep into March. The fourth spot is held by Cliff Hammonds of Clemson at 45. Georgia Tech's Dennis Scott holds the ACC record at 69.