Déjà vu all over again. Rinse and repeat. Live by the 3, die by the 3.
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You can probably come up with a few one-liners of your own.
But the scoreboard doesn’t lie and the scoreboard at the end of a wide, wooly and controversial ending read Syracuse 64 Duke 62. The loss was Duke’s third straight and drops the Blue Devils to 14-5, 3-3 in the ACC.
Four of those losses have come since Amile Jefferson went down with a broken foot and all four were up for grabs with a half-minute left. And a talented but young, thin Duke team simply hasn’t made the plays they needed to make.
There are some common threads. In all three ACC losses Duke mismanaged the end of the first half, allowing their opponents to close the gap and go into the locker room with momentum. Duke’s defensive rebounding woes continued and there were some big missed foul shots, this time a pair by Marshall Plumlee with Duke down 56-51, with 5:43 left..
Syracuse’s trademark is their 2-3 zone and it gave Duke fits. Or maybe not. The party line is that Duke had good looks and just couldn’t knock them down. Duke attempted 37 3-pointers and missed 27 of them. Luke Kennard and Matt Jones combined for 2-20 from the field, 2-18 from beyond the arc.
In fact, Kennard went scoreless two days after putting 30 on Notre Dame. He sat out the final, furious 5:23 of the game, a span when Duke made no substitutions.
Duke missed four 3-pointers in the first two minutes and started 0 for 6 on 3s before Jones broke the ice. Brandon Ingram knocked one down a few minutes later to give Duke its first lead, at 10-9. Duke attempted only a single non-rebound two-point shot during this span and didn’t make a non-rebound two-pointer until al Plumlee lay-up midway through the first half.
But Duke was getting stops, holding Syracuse to barely a point per minute for most of the half. Duke led by five at 16-11 and six at 29-23 late in the half. Grayson Allen fumbled away a defensive rebound with about 13 seconds left. Trevor Cooney made a 3 and an Allen 3-pointer was ruled to have come after the buzzer.
Duke led 29-26 at intermission.
Duke appeared to be on the verge of getting separation several times in the second half, leading 41-35 after an Ingram 3-pointer.
But an old bugaboo kept coming back. At that point, Syracuse got seven second-chance points in a six-minute span to take a 53-48 lead.
Jones says rebounding "isn’t a skill. It’s just something that you want to do. And they wanted to do it. It’s really disturbing but that’s been the reality the last couple of games. We just have to find a way to make it not a reality."
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called this 18-7 run "the difference in the game."
Derryck Thornton cut it to 53-51 but Tyler Lydon and Michael Gbinije connected on 3s and it was 59-51.
Gbinije was 6-38 on 3s in ACC competition this season before his bomb.
Again, Duke fought back and had a chance to win. Plumlee and Syracuse’s Tyler Roberson went toe-to-toe for much of the game and Plumlee had a couple of over-the head dunks, while Ingram (off a tip) and Allen scored inside.
Syracuse helped by missing some foul shots and Duke had the ball down 63-62, with a half-minute left.
But Duke was facing two huge disadvantages. Krzyzewski had called Duke’s last timeout with 88 seconds left—remember the new rules reduced team timeouts to four this season-so Duke had to figure it out on the fly.
Perhaps more importantly, Syracuse had been called for only three team fouls up to that point. They were able to use two non-shooting fouls to disrupt Duke and force them to start over.
Allen got off a shot with seven seconds left, a tough lay-up in traffic. The rebound was batted around in the general direction of Jones, who had possession for an instant before being clobbered by the Syracuse defense.
No call. Duke fouled, Syracuse made the first of two foul shots and Jones was unable to get off a clean 3 at the buzzer.
Mike Krzyzewski referred to the non-call on Jones as "amazing." Seven times. He was smiling but it was a happy smile. He wants to coach the next game.
Note that the missing foul would have been Syracuse’s sixth and Duke would have had to score off an in-bounds play, without a time-out to set up something.
Duke and Syracuse have played five times since the latter joined the ACC. Three of the five have come down to the wire, with the Orange prevailing in two of those, with Duke winning the two that didn’t go the wire.
This was the only regular-season match between the two squads.
Duke goes on the road for three games and won’t return to Cameron until February 6.
Plumlee says it’s not time to panic but does note Duke has to get older in a hurry.
"We have a lot of growth that we need to happen as a team, a lot of growing up. We’re going to watch the film and learn from it but more importantly, we need to just believe in each other and come together when the games get tough. . . . there’s always a sense of urgency but for some of the younger guys who didn’t appreciate that sense of urgency at first, it should be hitting them hard."
Krzyzewski said it was too early to discuss specifics but Duke doesn’t play until Saturday, which at the very least will allow some tired legs to rest. But Duke just doesn’t have a lot of options right now.
Krzyzewski used the word "cruel" to describe this last week. "Our kids have fought the whole year. They are undermanned, we are under-aged and they have done a good job. When you lose, it makes you appreciate even more what you have done.. It should make you want to win again. . . . We are playing out hearts out and that is not being rewarded."
Plumlee led Duke with 19 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and four blocks. And Ingram added 11 rebounds and 13 points. But no one else had more than four rebounds for Duke, while Roberson grabbed 20 for Syracuse, which won the battle of the boards 49-42 and scored a dozen second-chance points after intermission.
Duke has been outrebounded six times this season, including the last three games.
Allen scored 18 for Duke, which got 50 of its 62 points from three players.
By contrast, the balanced Orange had Roberson, Gbinije, Cooney and Malachi Richardson all score 14 points, with Tyler Lydon adding eight points and nine rebounds off the bench.