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DURHAM, N.C. — Syracuse entered Cameron Indoor Stadium with the worst defense in the Atlantic Coast Conference having lost four of its last six games. SU’s opponent, sixth-ranked Duke, came in averaging nearly 83 points per game and featured freshman Paolo Banchero, expected to be one of the top picks in next spring’s NBA Draft.
So it made sense when Duke got out to a hot start, leading 11-2 minutes into the game, carrying a 14-point lead into halftime. Syracuse was outscored by six in the second half, with Buddy Boeheim struggling, making just two shots, and Joe Girard III shooting 3-for-13. The Orange’s 35.3% shooting percentage was their third-worst all season, only better than their 63-60 win over Florida State in December and their 67-55 loss to VCU in November.
Here are some observations from Syracuse’s 79-59 loss against No. 6 Duke:
Shooting struggles from the get-go
Syracuse was able to get out to hot starts in recent games, but it trailed 8-0 possessions into the game, forcing head coach Jim Boeheim to call an early timeout. Girard, in particular, struggled early, making just one of his first four shots and turning the ball over twice. At the under-12 media timeout, the Orange had more turnovers (five) than made shots (two) and were unable to easily move the ball up the court in transition.
But SU was able to find somewhat of a rhythm, with looks from Symir Torrence and Jesse Edwards finding soft space on the glass. Syracuse’s halftime deficit of 14 would’ve been tighter had Girard, along with Jimmy Boeheim and Buddy, converted on several open 3-point looks.
After scoring 17 or more points in each of his last four games, Buddy struggled out of the gate, missing his first eight shots. Buddy wasn’t alone, either, as Syracuse made just two of its first 13 attempts from 3-point range, highlighted by six misses from Girard and two from Cole Swider. Boeheim brought Torrence in off the bench, allowing SU to run Girard and Buddy off screens in the new-look, smaller lineup, but the two guards struggled to hit shots even after being freed by screens.
That continued into the second half, with Buddy going 2-for-15, finishing with only seven points. Without the normal offensive production from their leading scorer — and lacking the size and physicality to compete inside — the Orange were forced to rely on Swider and Girard in the second half, who finished with 11 and seven points, respectively.
Mark Williams and 3-pointers lead Duke’s offense
In Syracuse’s 85-71 loss at Duke last season, it was 3-pointers and dominance inside from center Mark Williams that hurt the Orange most. Saturday, the offensive formula stayed the same for the Blue Devils. AJ Griffin — brother of former SU forward Alan Griffin — hit two 3s from the right wing and two from the corner, and Williams got his right hand on a lob attempt from Wendell Moore Jr., converting to give Duke an early 8-0 lead.
Williams finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, using his two-inch and 12-pound advantage over Edwards to his advantage. Out of Duke’s 13 made baskets in the first half, 12 came off assists, including six from Moore, who drove into the 2-3 zone to find shooters on the perimeter and an open Williams down low for alley-oop attempts.
On one lob, Moore drove through the top of the defense, and Williams, standing alone near the right elbow, jumped in the air for the lob attempt. The pass was low, but the 7-foot-1 center corralled the ball and slammed it through the basket in one motion.
Outside of Williams, it was the 3-point shooting that gave Duke an early double-digit lead. Duke’s 3-point specialist, Joey Baker, hit both of his 3s, too, and the Blue Devils shot nearly 47% from beyond the arc in the first half. The looks mainly came off drive and kicks, with the Orange’s defense collapsing in the paint around Banchero, Williams and others, which created space on the perimeter that SU’s guards couldn’t move to in time.
First-half Duke turnovers keep SU within range
It was a costly number of turnovers in Duke’s two games against Florida State and Miami that led to losses. Against the Seminoles, the Blue Devils turned it over 15 times — including four by Banchero — and against the Hurricanes it was a season-high 17 turnovers that helped produce a 76-74 upset loss at home.
The trend continued early on against Syracuse. Duke forced passes against SU’s 2-3 zone that led to deflections and interceptions, and the Blue Devils even stepped out of bounds on the far baseline multiple times in the first half, leading to 10 turnovers, preventing them from further extending their already sizable first-half lead.
But in the second half, Mike Krzyzewski’s group controlled the ball better, recording only five turnovers and limiting SU’s opportunities to push the ball in transition. Instead, Syracuse was forced to run offensive sets against Duke’s pressure defense and could only muster 59 points.
Rebounding goes Duke’s way
Syracuse possesses a size advantage against most teams it faces, but going up against Williams (7-foot-1, 242 pounds) and Banchero (6-foot-10, 250 pounds), Syracuse got thoroughly outmuscled throughout Saturday’s game.
Banchero finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and on one play in the second half after Jeremy Roach missed a baseline floater, the Seattle native flashed through the paint to secure the rebound with two hands and finish off the glass to grow the Blue Devils’ lead.
Later, Duke missed a 3-pointer but Moore rose up and tapped in the miss with his right hand over SU center Frank Anselem, filling in for Edwards, who had already accumulated three fouls just minutes into the second half. Then, with eight minutes left, Banchero missed his 3-pointer from the right wing but crashed inside, securing the rebound and scoring inside to give Duke a 69-39 lead and forcing a Boeheim timeout.
Duke outrebounded Syracuse by 10 and secured 13 offensive rebounds. Williams collected 11 rebounds against the Orange last year — when SU was able to keep the rebounding margin within two — but for most of the second half, it was all Duke on the glass, cementing Syracuse’s worst-ever loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The post Observations from Syracuse-Duke: Everyone struggles, Duke automatic from 3 appeared first on The Daily Orange.