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Syracuse Upsets Duke On Last-Second Jumper

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And it was a banked-in three pointer too

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse
Feb 22, 2017; Syracuse, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) dribbles the ball between Syracuse Orange guards John Gillon (4) and Frank Howard (1) during the first half at the Carrier Dome.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse had a certain advantage in this game that we sometimes have referred to as ACC Desperation, or other similar terms: they absolutely had to have this one to keep their tournament hopes alive.

It was an absolutely crucial game for the Orange and they played like it. Duke showed some really good things in spots, but didn’t have the same urgency and so, not surprisingly, lost.

What was surprising was how they lost, to a running, banked in three point shot by John Gillon, who will probably never have to buy lunch in Syracuse again.

The shot gave Syracuse a 78-75 win.

Duke had some issues in this one. Grayson Allen shot 2-11 and Matt Jones hit 1-6. That added up to 3-17.

The rest of the team shot 22-47.

Duke shot 39.1% overall; Allen & Jones combined for 17.6% and took 26.5% of Duke’s shots.

Subtract their shots and Duke hit 46%.

There are some caveats. First, Jones’s primary value is not as a scorer. And second, Allen, like Amile Jefferson, isn’t practicing due to lingering injuries.

Jayson Tatum had a huge first half with a rare 20 minute double-double. He really was brilliant in the opening half.

And after a slightly slow start, Luke Kennard came on and finished with 23, including a shocking 360 in the lane.

Well he missed that, but just the fact that he actually tried a 360, against a zone, in a really big game was incredible. He barely missed. Harry Giles looked so shocked that he was slightly short on the follow.

Who has the confidence to try that in traffic? Amazing.

After his brilliant first half, Tatum was much quieter in the second with just two points and three rebounds.

Jefferson really stepped up and in the most surprising way: he’s been a weak free throw shooter since arriving at Duke, but Jefferson hit 8-9 in this one.

He got open repeatedly behind Syracuse’s zone and either scored or was fouled.

Duke had trouble with the zone as so many do with Jim Boeheim’s take on the 2-3 but still hit enough to take the game to the last play.

The truth is though it shouldn’t have.

Duke lost about 10 points on shots it should have hit in the first half and instead of an 18-20 point halftime lead, Duke had an eight point cushion.

As it turned out, that wasn’t enough.

So the trip to balmy Syracuse (66 degrees Wednesday, believe it or not), was for naught.

On the bright side, Harry Giles continues to come along. He had some wonderful plays in this game and is regaining his confidence game by game.

After the game, Coach K said that the ending wasn’t really a surprise to him because Duke’s weak play had allowed a last shot and “sometimes the basketball gods do that.”

What will be interesting now will be how Duke applies the lessons and moves forward.

One of the quiet strengths of Duke’s program is how well it handles defeats: they are almost always processed and ultimately used for betterment. It’ll be interesting to see what is drawn from this game.

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