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Following a 13-point win against Clemson, Syracuse travels to Durham, North Carolina, Saturday to face No. 6 Duke at noon. SU’s 91 points scored on Tuesday, led by Buddy Boeheim’s 25 points and Joe Girard III’s 23, was its most in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season and the most it’s scored in a game since Dec. 27 against Brown.
It’s the first of two meetings between the Orange and Duke this season, with the second taking place on Feb. 26 in the Carrier Dome. The Blue Devils were upset in their most recent game — a 79-78 loss to Florida State in overtime — and picked up their second conference loss of the season.
Here’s everything to know about the Blue Devils (14-3, 4-2 ACC) before their game against Syracuse (9-9, 3-4) on Saturday.
Duke leads, 11-6.
Last time they played
Duke’s shooters connected on 10 3-pointers in the first half, torching Syracuse for 52 points in the opening 20 minutes, and cruised past the Orange, 85-71, to snap SU’s three-game winning streak. D.J. Steward and Jeremy Roach each sank four 3s, while the Blue Devils made 13 of 29 shots from beyond the arc and made their first eight before Syracuse connected on its first.
The Orange’s defense also allowed 7-foot-1 center Mark Williams to compile 18 points and 11 rebounds, and those struggles mitigated any chance their offense — led by Buddy’s 21 points and five 3-pointers, and complemented by three other double-digit scorers — had to mount a comeback.
Duke has an 88% chance to win, with a projected score of 85-72.
The Blue Devils report
Duke might be without one of its starting guards on Saturday, as Trevor Keels left Tuesday’s loss in the second half and never returned. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said postgame that it’s a calf injury, and not a knee injury, but “we don’t know the extent of it.” The freshman has started all 17 of the Blue Devils’ games this season and compiled the fourth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the ACC, and if he can’t play against the Orange, that might insert Roach — who started the first 14 games before A.J. Griffin took over his slot in the starting lineup — back into the opening lineup.
Duke’s loss to the Seminoles was its second in the last four games, but both of those defeats — with the other coming against Miami — have been by a combined three points. In their other four conference games, the Blue Devils, which ranked No. 1 in an AP Top 25 poll for the first time since November 2019, have defeated teams by an average of 12.5 points.
Freshman Paolo Banchero, voted as the Preseason ACC Player of the Year, leads Duke in scoring at 18.1 points per game and is one of three Blue Devils averaging double-figures, along with Wendell Moore Jr. (15.2) and Keels (11.9). Their offense ranks eighth in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom, and they’ve limited turnovers while operating efficiently on both 2- and 3-point attempts. Duke’s defense ranks inside the top 30 for adjusted efficiency, too. Banchero sits sixth in the ACC for scoring, while Moore’s 55.7% field-goal percentage ranks third. And Griffin, who’s started the last three games, shoots 53.8% from the field.
The Blue Devils have compiled wins over Gonzaga and Kentucky, ranked No. 1 and No. 4 in KenPom, respectively, and avoided cratering after a return from a COVID-19 pause in December. The Blue Devils won seven games in a row to start the year, dropped one to Ohio State and then ripped off five more before the Hurricanes hit two free throws in the final second to hand Duke its first, and only, home loss of the season.
How Syracuse beats Duke
The Orange have only won one of their last seven meetings against Duke, but in that one game — on Jan. 14, 2019 — Syracuse shot 44% on its 3-pointers, limited the Blue Devils to just nine makes from behind the arc and managed to outrebound a team that included Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, among others. To upset Duke on Saturday, the Orange will have to replicate a similar formula: defend the 3-point arc, which this season has been uncharacteristic of them, for a second game in a row; limit Williams’ ability to control rebounds underneath, with extra help coming from the guards at the top of the zone; and make sure their offensive strength of 3-pointers has the opportunity to emerge through open looks.
As head coach Jim Boeheim mentioned after the Clemson game, Syracuse has rebounded better in recent games. Against the Tigers, Jimmy Boeheim and Jesse Edwards each tallied double-digit rebounds in the same game for the first time this season. But in addition to limiting Williams’ impact in the paint, Syracuse needs to prevent Duke from establishing runs to turn a close game into a blowout. According to EvanMiya.com, a website tracking advanced analytics for college basketball, the Orange fall into a group containing the “most streaky” teams in college basketball, meaning they embark on and surrender runs of 10-0 or greater more than most of the country’s top 75 teams. Duke, on the other hand, falls just outside of the “dominant” bubble, meaning that it tends to win games on those runs.
Introducing a new scoring metric: Tracking double digit scoring runs in games (10-0 or better) over the course of the season.
Here’s the landscape of the top 75 teams in terms of runs scored and runs conceded pic.twitter.com/tPvOWo4x6r
— Evan Miyakawa (@EvanMiya) January 20, 2022
Stat to know: 137.0
Griffin has only been in Duke’s starting lineup for three games, but his offensive rating of 137.0 ranks eighth in the country, per KenPom. The younger brother of former Syracuse forward Alan Griffin, Griffin has averaged 17.8 minutes per game for the Blue Devils and only committed six turnovers, the fewest of any Duke player averaging more than 10 minutes of playing time. He’s shot an efficient 53.8% from the field, while converting at a 44.9% clip on his 49 3-point attempts.
Player to watch: Mark Williams, center, No. 15
Duke’s first basket against the Orange last season came when Steward lobbed a pass to Williams for a dunk, and he slammed another dunk in transition eight minutes later when he snuck behind SU’s defense following a Buddy miss and collected a pass from Jordan Goldwire. Overall, he finished with six dunks, 18 points and 11 rebounds to complete the first double-double of his collegiate career.
Williams’ 7-foot-7 wingspan is a program record, according to The Athletic’s Brendan Marks, and he sits fifth nationally for KenPom’s block percentage at 15.4. He’s typically on the court for about half of the game, and he’s averaging 9.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Some of SU’s past opponents, especially Virginia, have found success attacking the backline of the Orange’s defense — as opposed to a 3-point barrage — and find ways to create open layups and dunks from the blocks, and Williams will serve as one of the toughest tests this season for Edwards, Jimmy and Cole Swider down low in the 2-3 zone.