Down one superstar, Duke went into the lion’s den, with 35,000 or so lions and pulled out a 75-65 win over Syracuse, in front of the largest on-campus crowd to ever watch a college-basketball game.
Mike Krzyzewski has a fair amount of experience adjusting to injured stars, such notables as Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Elton Brand and Kyrie Irving among them.
How would he respond to the absence of Zion Williamson?
Maybe not how we expected. Javin DeLaurier replaced Marques Bolden in the starting lineup, with Alex O’Connell taking over Williamson’s starting spot.
But the big shocker came a few minutes into the game, when Joey Baker came into the game.
This being the same Joey Baker who had sat out Duke’s first 26 games, apparently on the way to a healthy redshirt.
“He’s played well in practice,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “Obviously,we haven’t shot the ball well. So, we’re going to look and see.”
Jack White did not play, although he was on the bench.
No one asked Krzyzewski about White in the post-game.
With the tragic automobile accident involving Jim Boeheim, the huge crowd and all the sidebars involving Williamson’s injuries, Duke’s young team could easily have been distracted.
“I wasn’t sure our guys could handle that,” Krzyzewski said. “But they did.”
R.J. Barrett carried Duke offensively in the early going, 17 of Duke’s 29 first-half points. But he didn’t get much help early.
Duke’s defense was pretty good, except for the part where you grab a defensive rebound. Syracuse hurt Duke on the boards early. Duke trailed most of the half, with a 12-6 Syracuse advantage down the stretch sending them to locker room up 34-29.
Tre Jones missed most of the first Duke-Syracuse game with a shoulder injury. Surprisingly, he spent much of the second game guarding Syracuse’s much bigger Tyus Battle. Duke used Jones to attack the middle of Syracuse’s fabled 2-3 zone several times early in the second half, with success.
But the big second-half story was O’Connell.
“All those things are neat on paper,” Krzyzewski said of starting the sophomore. “But Alex made it happen.”
Krzyzewski cited two key sequences in the second half.
The first came with Duke down 43-41, about five minutes into the half. DeLaurier dug out a couple of tough offensive rebounds in traffic, eventually finding O’Connell open in the corner. He buried the three, drew a foul and completed the four-point play.
Syracuse tied it at 50 but never again led.
The second play cited by Krzyzewski came with Duke up 58-56. With only two seconds left on the shot clock, Barrett somehow created space with a ball fake and hit the three-pointer.
That made it 61-56, with 6:14 left. O’Connell added to the lead with a steal and dunk, then Jones found Barrett for another dunk.
Duke closed it out down the stretch. Bolden came off the bench when DeLaurier picked up his fourth foul and grabbed six rebounds in the final 4:18. And Duke converted its final six foul shots, going 14-for-16 for the game.
The win keeps Duke in a three-way tie for first place in the ACC, at 12-2, 24-3 overall.
Krzyzewski said Thursday was especially tough.
“The last 48 hours, everybody has had opinions about everything.” He says he met with almost everyone on the team.
Krzyzewski praised Syracuse for the way it handled the tragic death of Jorge Jimenez.
“I was glad he coached,” he said of Boeheim. “What the hell else was he supposed to do?”
Barrett ended with 30 points, despite missing his only foul shot. He added five rebounds and a game-high seven assists.
This was his sixth 30-point game of the season.
O’Connell had a career-high 20 points (5-for-8 on threes). Jones had 11 points and four assists.
DeLaurier and Bolden combined for 15 rebounds, as Duke edged Syracuse on the glass, 44-40.
Battle led Syracuse with 16 points but made on 4-of-17 from the field.
Krzyzewski said that Williamson’s injury was the kind that would heal without further complications, Duke will not play him until he is ready and Williamson is eager to return to the court.
Williamson is still day-to-day.
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- Box Score (PDF)
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- Alex O’Connell steps in for Zion Williamson. Duke wins at Syracuse.
- From the Boards: Post-game Discussion
Player Of The Game vs. Syracuse
This poll is closed
Alex O’ Connell
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