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When Buddy Boeheim missed a 3-pointer in the corner that would’ve cut Duke’s lead to 18 points, freshman Benny Williams was there for the offensive board and the put-back layup. The largest Carrier Dome crowd of the season erupted into cheers, but in an instant, fell quiet when Duke’s AJ Griffin hit a 3-pointer and stretched its lead back to 22.
The crowd reacted the same way when Bourama Sidibe’s jumper midway through the second half cut it to 16 points, but then Duke’s Mark Williams slammed down a dunk right afterward.
The No. 7 Blue Devils held a comfortable 20-point lead for most of the game against Syracuse. There were spurts of success, but for the vast majority of Saturday night, the Orange were overmatched — they couldn’t stop Duke on defense, they couldn’t win battles on the boards and they couldn’t knock down enough shots.
Saturday evening marked the final meeting between the two winningest coaches in NCAA history, Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski, the latter of whom is retiring at the conclusion of the season. Syracuse was thoroughly outclassed by No. 7 Duke (25-4, 15-3 ACC) as the Orange (15-14, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) couldn’t earn their first Quadrant I win of the season, losing 97-72 to the conference’s best team. The loss was the second-largest home defeat in Boeheim’s 46-year tenure.
“We can’t handle Duke, it’s pretty simple,” Boeheim said postgame.
In the first meeting between Boeheim and Krzyzewski this season, Syracuse was blown out 79-59 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It marked SU’s first 20-point loss to Duke in the Boeheim era (Saturday was the second). Buddy Boeheim struggled, and the Orange trailed by as many as 31 before making it a slightly more respectable 20-point loss. Buddy, who leads SU in points per game, went 2-of-15 from the field and missed his first eight shots.
On Saturday, Buddy had a much-improved shooting performance since his last game against the Blue Devils, but the loss had a similar feel. SU went down 14-0 after the opening tipoff following a red-hot shooting start from Duke. The fans were on their feet, clapping in the lead-up to Syracuse’s first bucket, but it took so long (over four minutes) that many gave up and stopped. Duke’s lead continued to balloon after that.
“We fought through it as best you could, but you give them 20 right off the bat, it’s not a good scenario,” Boeheim said.
Paolo Banchero burned SU from beyond the arc right from the get-go, draining his first three 3-pointers. Mark rejected a Cole Swider attempted layup on one end, and then Griffin nailed a 3 on the other. Griffin, the younger brother of former SU player Alan Griffin, started 3-of-3 from deep, too. By the under-12 media timeout, Duke was 11-of-12 from the field and led 31-9.
They’re better, they’re just that much better than us.
SU head coach Jim Boeheim
“I thought our offense was amazing for the first 17 minutes of the first half,” Krzyzewski said.
Boeheim said SU initially wanted to stop Griffin from shooting early on, but it simply couldn’t do that. Boeheim said he was also frustrated with Syracuse’s interior defense, adding that he told Frank Anselem to stay back and defend the paint from Mark’s dunks, for instance. He said Anselem didn’t do that, though.
Benny gave Syracuse fans something to cheer about when he drove and got a layup, and then pulled up for a jumper near the free-throw line on the following possession, but Duke answered right back when Griffin nailed another 3-pointer.
At that point, the Blue Devils had more 3-pointers (seven) than SU had made field goals (six). They wouldn’t let up, either. Banchero made his fourth 3-pointer and Trevor Keels made another, continuing to build on the lead. Krzyzewski said the game was one of Banchero’s best performances, and Boeheim called Banchero a top-three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Symir Torrence suffered a head-to-head collision with a Duke player in the first half, and he went back to the locker room with a cut on the left side of his forehead, according to an SU Athletics spokesperson. He didn’t return, and he’ll need stitches on the cut. Boeheim said Torrence will be out for “a while.”
SU answered Duke’s buckets with occasional buckets of its own, largely via Buddy. But for much of the first half, the separation hovered around 25 points. Boeheim said if it wasn’t for Buddy, Syracuse would’ve trailed 30-2 at the start, adding that the guard’s been making shots recently that he never expected he could.
Syracuse used an 11-0 run at the end of the half to make its first real dent in the deficit. Swider hit a jump shot before he was forced back to the bench when he picked up his third foul. Buddy got a steal and set up Joe Girard III on a fast-break layup. John Bol Ajak got a rebound and then picked out Buddy for a jumper, and Buddy hit a 3-pointer and another jumper after that to make it a 17-point game at the break, a much more manageable game than the previous 30-point first-half deficit.
SU’s offense improved in the second half, shooting 50% from the field by largely driving inside. Sidibe, Benny and Bol Ajak saw increased playing time in place of Swider and Jimmy Boeheim, who didn’t play for a large chunk of the second half.
Sidibe got a second-half jumper to go, and he went to the free-throw line where he made both shots. He caught a pass along the baseline from Buddy but made the extra pass to Ajak, who scored a layup from under the bucket.
Syracuse was scoring at a sustainable rate in the second half, but it was the defense that couldn’t seem to stop the bleeding. Mark got the offensive rebound of a Griffin missed 3 and turned it into a layup for two. Jeremy Roach hit a 3 to put Duke over 90 points.
And after the crowd started to filter out during the second half, when the final buzzer sounded through the Dome, it was the Orange who walked off the court knowing that they’d been outmatched by No. 7 Duke.
“I was proud — we got down 30 and managed to get it back to 17 and that’s about as good as it was going to be,” Boeheim said. “They’re better, they’re just that much better than us.”
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