Just like the classic game from three weeks prior, the rematch of Syracuse-Duke will also be remembered, only the second meeting for the officiating, particularly that it caused SU head coach Jim Boeheim to explode after a call late in the game and earn a pair of technical fouls and an ejection. The #5 Blue Devils (22-6, 11-4 ACC) made three of the ensuing four shots at the line, turning a two-point game into a five-point lead with possession of the ball, then hung on for a 66-60 victory over the top-ranked Orange (25-2, 12-2) in Durham, NC.
The call that sent Boeheim over the edge was a charging call against C.J. Fair. The whistle negated a basket that would have tied the game with ten seconds to play and, had the call gone the other way, would have also sent Fair to the line for a free throw attempt for the lead. Instead, SU’s head man stormed across the court, screaming invectives to make a point about the officiating and earning a pair of technicals that gave him the rest of the night off.
The loss is the second in a row for Syracuse and ensures that they will drop from the top spot in the polls on Monday. More importantly for the Orange, they remained in the offensive funk that has been plaguing them of late, shooting only 38.7 percent from the field in the game, including under 29 percent in the opening half. However, even more concerning for SU is that Duke finished one shot shy of making half their shots from the floor in the game and only the Blue Devils’ shaky free throw shooting (13-for-25) kept them close.
Syracuse got the opening score of the game, but Duke matched it shortly after, setting a tone of alternating scores for the first four minutes. After Duke knotted the score at 8-8, the Orange defense kicked in, holding them without a basket for almost five minutes.
Meanwhile, Jerami Grant started a 9-0 SU run with a hanging drive in the lane. Michael Gbinije, who transferred to Syracuse from Duke following his freshman year, came off the bench to make a pair of foul shots, then closed the run with a three-pointer just over eight minutes into the game.
The Blue Devils closed the gap to four shortly after the midpoint of the half, then climbed back within 19-16 with under seven minutes on the clock. The Orange responded with a pair of Tyler Ennis free throws and a lay-up from Grant that forced a Duke timeout with SU on top, 23-16.
Duke scored the next five points, but Gbinije made another three to stretch the Syracuse lead back to five. The Blue Devils, however, scored the final five points before the buzzer and sent the game to the break at 26 a side.
A couple three-pointers powered the hosts to a 33-30 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but a wide-open dunk for Grant pulled the Orange back within one. Duke replied with the next three points for a 36-32 lead heading into the first media timeout of the session.
Baye Moussa Keita tapped home a miss, then Fair made a deft floater coming down the left baseline to tie the game and force a Blue Devil time out. Following the SU defense forcing a jump ball, Grant converted with a nifty spin on the baseline for a 38-36 Syracuse lead.
A Duke three quickly put them back on top, but Ennis made a stepback baseline jumper and drew a foul on the shot. The free throw put the Orange back in front, 41-39, with just under a dozen minutes remaining.
Five straight points by the hosts gave them a three-point lead, only for SU to trade scores with them and climb back within a single point twice. A deuce and a trey for Duke gave them a 53-47 lead with under seven minutes to play.
The Orange clawed back by scoring on three of their next four possessions. Grant drained an 18-footer on the last of those trips, pushing Syracuse within 55-53 with 3:30 showing on the scoreboard.
After a Duke jump shot, SU tacked on three free throws spread over two possessions, getting within 57-56 with two minutes left. Two possessions after the Blue Devils stretched the lead to three, Ennis dropped a slick pass to a wide-open Rakeem Christmas under the bucket. The Orange center stuffed it home, pullng them within 59-58.
Syracuse fouled on the next Duke possession, but they only made one of two with 24 seconds left, giving Syracuse the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead.
Open in the left corner, Fair caught a pass and drove baseline. He elevated and tried to avoid contact with the help defender, but was ruled to have charged. Head coach Jim Boeheim exploded, stomping across the floor toward the official who made the call and eventually getting teed up twice.
After Boeheim went to the locker room, Duke made three of four free throws to extend the lead to 63-58 with ten seconds remaining. The Orange fouled on the inbounds play and another Blue Devil free throw pushed the lead to a half dozen.
Ennis was fouled on a three-pointer, but the shot missed, as did his first free throw. Ennis made the latter two, drawing SU within 64-60. With no other real options, Syracuse fouled again. This time, Duke made both free throws, effectively ending the game with a few seconds remaining.
Jerami Grant led the way on the scoresheet for SU, pouring in 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. C. J. Fair finished with a dozen points and a “what could have been.” Tyler Ennis chipped in with nine points, but struggled with his shot, making only 2-of-13 field goal attempts. Michael Gbinije turned in a solid game against his former mates, scoring all eight of his points in the first half. Baye Moussa Keita had more extended action in his second game back following a sprained knee and collected nine rebounds, eight coming on the offensive end.
Jabari Parker topped not just Duke, but all players with 19 points and ten rebounds. Rodney Hood had 13 points as the only other Blue Devil to reach double figures. Falling just shy of that plateau were Quinn Cook (nine points), Rasheed Sulaimon (eight), and Tyler Thornton (eight).
There is little rest for SU, as Monday night, they will visit Maryland for the second stop of their three-game road trip. The Terrapins (15-12, 7-7) will enter the game on five days’ rest, having been off since snapping a two-game slide by defeating Wake Forest on Tuesday, 71-60.
Five Maryland players are averaging double figures in scoring on the season, led by Dez Wells, who averages 14.8 points an outing. Jake Layman (12.1), Seth Allen (12.0), Evan Smotrycz (11.0), and Nick Faust (10.1) join Wells in averaging double digits in points. Both Wells and Allen are explosive scorers, each cracking the 30-point mark in a game in ACC play.
The action will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern. ESPN will televise that matchup, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)