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Duke Overcomes A Sensational Syracuse Effort To Advance In The ACC Tournament

A great game in a superb tournament to date.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke vs Syracuse
Mar 10, 2022; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) brings the ball up court against the Syracuse Orange during the first half at Barclays Center. 
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wendell Moore, Jr., Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach keyed a second-half comeback that pushed Duke over Syracuse 88-79 in the ACC Tournament semifinals Thursday afternoon.

A Duke win surprised few. But the fact that short-handed Syracuse dominated the middle portion of the game led by as much as seven in the second half certainly did.

The Orange came into the tournament with some key injuries, most notably center Jesse Edwards, out for the season with a hand injury and Benny Williams out with a leg injury. Then leading scorer Buddy Boeheim was suspended for the game following his infamous sucker punch of FSU’s Wyatt Wilkes yesterday.

All of this against a rested, presumably motivated Duke team that had mauled them twice in the regular season.

But maybe Syracuse’s 96-57 win over Florida State wasn’t really an outlier. Maybe they hit their stride at just the right time. Syracuse didn’t have a lot of scorers on the floor but they consistently got them the ball in advantageous spots. And Jim Boeheim mixed up his trademark 2-3 zone with a mixture of so-called “junk” defenses that flummoxed Duke in the first half and neutralized Duke’s inside game.

But Syracuse wasn’t the only team dealing with issues. Krzyzewski said after the game that A.J. Griffin had been sick to his stomach and Duke wasn’t sure he was even going to play.

Food poisoning? A bug?

“We’re hoping it’s not a bug that goes through the team. A few of the kids are not up to par. Hopefully, by tomorrow we’ll be in a lot better shape.”

Duke was able to get open 3-pointers and made them early, enough to open up the kind of early separation many expected. Moore, then Trevor Keels, then Keels again, then Moore again, all from beyond the arc and Duke was up 12-6 less than four minutes into the game.

The lead hit double digits at 24-13. Then Duke went ice cold and Syracuse started making everything they attempted.

“So, I thought we started the game well then fell in love with the three-point shot,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “They got momentum. We started fouling and they saw the ball go in a lot and then it was a helluva game.”

Joe Girard III was the player who saw the ball go in a lot.

He hit a three to make it 24-16. Then a short jumper and it was 24-18. Then Keels fouled him on a 3-pointer and three foul shots later it was 24-21. Two more foul shots and it was 24-23.

A 10-0 Girard run in 90 seconds and any chance of a comfortable Duke win simply evaporated.

Duke recovered enough to take a 36-33 lead late in the half. But Syracuse closed on a 7-0 run, the last three an off-balance baseline bomb by that Girard guy.

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Syracuse led 40-36, Girard with 18 points, Duke having scored four points in the final five minutes of the opening half.

No problem, right? A couple of halftime adjustments and Duke’s on its way.

Except those Syracuse bombs kept falling. Cole Swider for three, Girard for two and Jimmy Boeheim for three in Syracuse’s first five possessions and Syracuse led 48-41.

In fact Syracuse led by seven points five times, the last at 54-47

It turned slowly. Duke got some points in transition and started getting the ball inside to Williams; after a scoreless first half, Williams scored 15 points in the second half.

Krzyzewski called Williams’ second half his best half of the season.

“Obviously, it felt great,” Williams said. “I think my teammates did a good job of finding me in certain spots.”

Duke tied it at 55-55 on a Moore layup, took a 64-60 lead on a Roach triple and a Williams layup and pushed the lead to 72-67 on another Roach 3-pointer.

But Boeheim the younger kept the underdogs in the game. His 3-pointer made it 76-74 Duke, a Girard 3 made it 78-77 Duke and a Boeheim tip made it 79-78 underdogs with 3:38 left.

Syracuse wouldn’t score again. Maybe Duke ratcheted it up on defense, maybe Syracuse hit the wall, maybe they regressed to the mean.

Here’s Moore’s take on the stretch run.

“We had this look in our eyes that we were going to get it done. We had this look in the huddle, everybody knew what we were going to do for the next three possessions. Three stops and three scores. Everybody knew what we were doing on the offensive end and really it was just a matter of getting stops on the defensive end.”

Moore hit twice from the line, Paulo Banchero hit a short jumper in traffic, Roach hit a 3 off a great Moore assist and Williams scored in transition after Keels grabbed a defensive rebound and threw the touchdown pass.

The Roach triple with 1:08 left to make it 85-79 was a dagger.

“The coach and the players have all the confidence in me,” Roach said. “I was hot at that point, obviously, but he [Moore| has all the trust in me to make that shot.”

Syracuse ended the game with eight missed shots, with a turnover mixed in.

They also ended their season at 16-17, Jim Boeheim’s first losing season and Syracuse’s first losing season since 1969.

Moore led Duke with 26 points. Roach added 19, Williams 15 and Keels 14. Williams had 16 rebounds and three blocks, Moore eight assists.

Syracuse’s swarming defense held Banchero to 10 points and forced four turnovers. But Banchero countered with 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.

Boeheim led everyone with 28 points. Girard finished with 23, Swider with 15.

Symir Torrence was the guy finding all those open shooters. He had 11 assists.

Duke runs its record to 27-5 and advances to tomorrow’s semifinal against Miami.

“Proud of my guys for executing down the stretch,” Krzyzewski said.

Survive and advance.


Player Of The Game vs. Syracuse

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Wendell Moore
    (348 votes)
  • 0%
    AJ Griffin
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Paolo Banchero
    (5 votes)
  • 10%
    Mark Williams
    (71 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor John
    (5 votes)
  • 34%
    Jeremy Roach
    (227 votes)
667 votes total Vote Now