If the first game between Syracuse and Duke as Atlantic Coast Conference mates is a sign of things to come, college basketball fans have a lot to look forward to. The #2 Orange and #17 Blue Devils dueled in a classic and it took a wild final second shot wide of the mark to give SU a 91-89 overtime victory in front of a Carrier Dome-record crowd numbering 35,446.
Not only did it give Syracuse the decision over Duke in their first conference matchup, it moved them to 21-0, setting a school record for the most consecutive wins to begin a season. The Orange are atop the ACC with an 8-0 mark, giving them a one-game cushion over Virginia. The Blue Devils had a five-game win streak snapped and fell to 17-5 overall and 6-3 in conference action.
While SU led for a large portion of the game, they fell behind in overtime, but were able to come back and hold on at the end. The Orange were exceptionally effective on offense, connecting on 57.4 percent of their field goals and 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) of their free throws. Duke stayed in the game by taking and making lots of threes, finishing 15-of-36 (41.7 percent) from behind the arc.
The Orange got out to a solid start, and when C. J. Fair knifed to the bucket for a lay-in, the Orange took a 6-2 lead just over three minutes into action. Duke charged back into the action, using a pair of threes to provide the oomph in an 8-2 run to take their first lead at 13-10 with just under a dozen minutes on the clock.
SU put together four quick points to retake the lead, then the two squads fell into a pattern of alternating scores. Down 20-18, Trevor Cooney sparked Syracuse with a three-pointer to take the lead. After Baye Keita tapped in a miss, Fair completed a three-point play that brought the Carrier Dome crowd to their feet and the Orange to a 26-20 lead with 5:26 left in the opening half.
The two teams traded scores for the next four minutes, only the Blue Devils buried three shots from beyond the arc to narrow the margin to 34-33 with 1:15 left in the opening half. Jerami Grant stuck four straight free throws to stretch the margin to five, but a slam from Duke with just before the buzzer drew them within 38-35 at halftime.
The second half was tight and the two teams alternated scores in the opening minutes until the Blue Devils followed a free throw with a bucket that shaved the margin to 45-43 in favor of the hosts. Again, the teams set off on a streak of alternating scores until a brief 9-3 burst by Duke put them on top, 56-54, as the clock neared the 11 minute mark.
After another pair of Grant free throws, Fair started to make his mark on the game by blowing by a Duke defender and hammering a lefty dunk that gave the Orange a three-point margin. After a Blue Devil free throw, Fair continued to operate, making a stepback jumper on which he as fouled, but missed the free throw, then a lay-up in transition that had the Orange in front, 62-57. After a Duke basket, Fair made a nifty step-through lay-in, then Cooney dropped in a floater to give Syracuse their greatest lead of the night at 66-59 with just over 6:30 remaining.
Tyler Thornton responded for the visitors, draining treys on the next three Duke trips. After the Blue Devils tacked on a lay-up, it was tied at 70 with under four minutes on the clock. On the next possession, Fair sliced down the lane on a sweet pass from Rakeem Christmas and laid the ball in while being fouled. Fair tacked on the charity shot and SU was back up by three.
Duke would not go quietly and tied the game at 75 with 48 seconds on the clock. Rakeem Christmas was fouled and made a free throw for Syracuse. After the Orange made a defensive stand and came up with a loose ball, Tyler Ennis was fouled with 4.6 seconds on the clock. The first free throw rolled in and the second followed, putting SU in front, 78-75.
Out of timeouts, Duke rushed up court. Rasheed Sulaimon drilled a pull-up three, forcing an extra five minutes.
After the Blue Devils opened overtime with another three, Grant put down two fierce dunks around a Duke free throw and the game was again tied, this time at 92 with just over 90 seconds off the clock. After Duke scored, once again Grant stuffed the ball to knot the game.
Duke’s next trip down the court resulted in their 15th three-pointer of the night and an 87-84 lead. They quickly called their final timeout with 1:20 showing on the scoreboard.
Ennis again struck, making a pair of free throws for the Orange. After Grant made a pair of his own that pushed Syracuse in front, 88-87, Rodney Hood found himself with an open lane, but missed his dunk attempt off the back iron after Christmas contested the shot and made some contact with both Hood and the ball.
The referees’ whistles remained silent and the ball got to Ennis, who made yet another pair at the line to stretch the lead to three. Ennis then fouled while the Blue Devils were bringing the ball up the court and Sulaimon made both to draw the visitors within 90-89. After the inbounds pass, Fair was fouled, but he could only coax the second foul shot in for a 91-89 margin with 5.5 seconds remaining.
Again without a timeout, Duke rushed up court. After a pass, Quinn Cook was forced to rush a challenged perimeter jumper, but the shot was wild and the Orange escaped with the win.
C.J. Fair made a huge statement in the game, pouring in a game-high and career-high 28 points, including 16 in the second half. Fellow forward Jerami Grant was a force, posting 24 points, including making all ten of his free throws, and a game-high 12 rebounds. Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis each added 14 points for the Orange, with Ennis falling one assist shy of a double-double. Rakeem Christmas played very well on both ends, finishing with seven points, ten boards, and six blocked shots.
Duke had five players reach double figures, led by Rasheed Sulaimon, who had 16 points. Jabari Parker had 15 points before fouling out while Andre Dawkins, Rodney Hood, and Amile Jefferson each chipped in with 14.
The Orange have little time to celebrate, as Notre Dame will visit the Dome on Monday night for a 7:00pm tip, the second game of three straight at home for SU. The Fighting Irish (12-10, 3-6) have lost six of their last eight contests, but snapped a three-game slide on Saturday when they edged Boston College in overtime, 76-73.
The Irish fates turned south after Jerian Grant (brother of Jerami), who was averaging 19 points a game on the season, was declared academically ineligible. Garrick Sherman, Eric Atkins, and Pat Connaughton have picked up the scoring slack, averaging between 13.4 and 14.5 points per game apiece. Atkins and Connaughton are lethal outside, having combined for 95 triples already on the year.
ESPN will televise the game, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.