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Duke Downs Syracuse 60-44

Not a pretty win but no one will care in six weeks.

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Syracuse v Duke
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 24: Teammates Matthew Moyer #2 and Frank Howard #23 of the Syracuse Orange go after a loose ball against Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I’m showing my age here, but I remember when the 3-point shot was supposed to put an end to the zone defense.

I guess coaches adjusted.

Duke and Syracuse used zones to bludgeon the 3-point shot into submission Saturday evening.

They did pretty much the same thing to 2-point shots, now that I think about it.

Duke was the last man standing, 60-44, Duke’s fifth straight win. Duke moves to 24-5, overall, 12-4 in the ACC, while Syracuse dropped to 18-11, 7-9.

A media friend told me this game reminded me of the old Big East games and he was on target, especially that period when the Big East experimented with six fouls. Duke and Syracuse didn’t just bring their lunch pails, they brought truncheons.

Think Sharks v. Jets.

Fortunately, Duke also brought Marvin Bagley III, back in action after missing four games with a knee sprain.

Bagley didn’t start but entered the game 2:36 into the contest and played 31 minutes, all of which Duke needed.

Duke also needed everything it got from Wendell Carter, Jr. whose life has been interesting in the last few days. As in the supposed Chinese curse meaning of interesting.

Carter started, and I’ll update his status further down.

Duke never trailed, and it was tied only at 2 and 4. But extending the lead was agonizing for Duke. It took Duke almost six minutes to get into double figures and Syracuse didn’t hit double figures until 18-10, with 6:33 left in the half.

Mike Krzyzewski said that “It was tough to score tonight. Our guys hung tough. We didn’t let what we couldn’t do on the offensive end affect what we could do on the defensive end. Open shots were hard to come by and both teams protected their rims very well. Big-time defense inside.”

“Their zone is wide and they stay really high on it, “Grayson Allen said. “They were keying on me and Gary {Trent, Jr.} and playing off everybody else so that made it tough to get open looks. But we stuck with our game plan to get ball to the bigs and we got lots of good shots at the rim.”

One of those good shots at the rim came on a 60-foot alley-oop lob from Allen to Bagley. Allen had another almost as jaw-dropping in the second half, this one to Carter.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence as a passer,” Allen says.” It makes it a little easier when the guys you’re throwing it to are 6-10 and can jump 40 inches. It just takes a lot of confidence to throw it, maybe a lack of sense in some cases but I trust them to go get it.”

Duke’s first-half scoring largely came either on dunks or free throws. Bagley had five dunks in the first half, Allen had another, Duke hit 9-10 from the foul line and three layups.

That’s 27 points, none from beyond the arc. Duke was 0-10 on 3-pointers in the first half.

So was Syracuse. That’s right. Zero-for-20.

The visitors cobbled together a miserly 16 points in the first half.

How do you score 16 points in a half? Shoot 31 percent from the field, don’t go to the foul line a single time and turn it over nine times.

Syracuse hung around for much of the second half, cutting their deficit to seven at 35-28 and 37-30. Oshae Brisset hit the game’s first 3-pointer almost five minutes into the second half. But Brisset ended the game shooting 2-13, with six turnovers.

He wasn’t the only Orange-clad perimeter player to struggle. Tyus Battle came into the game averaging around 20 points per game but scored only two in the first half and had only five with 10 minutes left in the game.

A late flurry gave him 12 points.

Brisset, Battle and Frank Howard shot 10-39, with 11 turnovers.

“Holding down those three perimeter guys was our priority,” Allen said. “We wanted to make it a tough day for them and make other guys on their team take the majority of the shots and force them into tough shots, either contested at the rim or contested jumpers. It was a team effort because guys have to be talking and knowing when that player is in your area. That’s part of our progression on defense.”

Of course, Allen, Trent and Duval shot 6-27. But with Syracuse’s 7-2 Paschal Chukwu held to 24 foul-plagued minutes, Duke gradually took control down low, building the lead to 47-32 on a Bagley foul shot and 58-38 on a transition dunk by Trent.

After a slow start, Carter ended with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and four steals.

“I stayed poised and took the shots that came to me. I’m not forcing anything.”

The formerly foul-prone Carter had zero fouls and hit all six of his foul shots.

Carter is 24-for-28 from the line in his last five games.

The result of “constant, day-to-day work,” Carter says of both the foul shooting and the lack of fouls.

Bagley had 19 points and seven rebounds.

Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier also came in for praise from K.

Bolden had seven points and six rebounds, while DeLaurier grabbed six rebounds.

DeLaurier spent many of his 17 minutes playing with two of Bagley, Carter or Bolden, sometimes with Trent and Allen, a huge zone.

Expect to see more of this, Krzyzewski says.

“The two things you can’t simulate when you’re playing really good teams are length and quickness. The things you think you see on TV and in the stands, you don’t see on the court. He makes our zone really big. Javin has to play. He’s playing really well.”

Carter agrees.

“Javin is always on the boards, fighting for every loose ball. With him in the zone, he’s going to guard his part of the zone very well. It’s hard to throw lobs and get high-low touches.”


Syracuse’s 44 points marks the fourth consecutive game Duke has held an ACC opponent under 60 points, un-charted waters for the shot-clock era. Virginia also held Syracuse to 44 in a 15-point win.

Duke outrebounded Syracuse 37-33, while committing 11 turnovers to their 17. Duke had 16 assists, led by Allen’s six.

Now for the elephant in the room.

From Duke’s perspective, it looks like a pygmy elephant.

Carter. “I didn’t do anything wrong and my family didn’t do anything wrong, so I wasn’t really stressed about anything. I knew I was going to play. It was just another day.”

Krzyzewski said he was walking his dog yesterday, when Carter’s mother called to alert him to the 2016 agent meeting. She said her husband didn’t like the guy and left right away. Being a southern lady, she waited a little longer before leaving, neither of them having eaten a bite.

Duke called in the compliance folks, talked to the Carters, and did due diligence before Kevin White issued his statement of yesterday.

Krzyzewski talked at length about the sport. I’m sure those remarks will be widely disseminated elsewhere. But he did say that he hopes these dark days will lead to some real change and that he thinks the problems start before the players get to college.


Player of the game vs. Syracuse

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Javin DeLaurier
    (15 votes)
  • 53%
    Wendell Carter
    (409 votes)
  • 10%
    Grayson Allen
    (81 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevon Duval
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Gary Trent
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Jack White
    (8 votes)
  • 22%
    Marvin Bagley
    (171 votes)
  • 8%
    Marques Bolden
    (68 votes)
  • 0%
    Jordan Goldwire
    (3 votes)
761 votes total Vote Now

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