A quick take on Syracuse’s stunning performance in toppling No. 1 Duke 95-91 in overtime, silencing the usual rabid crowd inside of Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday evening:
WHAT HAPPENED: Off its worst performance of the season Saturday against Georgia Tech, Syracuse (12-5, 3-1) played its best basketball of the season going head-to-head with the Blue Devils, albeit a top ranked team playing minus two starters. SU battled back from an early 12 point deficit to make it a back-and-forth game until the final 2:00 of OT, before prevailing. It is exactly the kind of win that will go a long way in March with the NCAA Selection Committee should SU again be on the proverbial “Bubble.” It was the first win for Syracuse over the No. 1 team in 13 years.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse had the game right where it wanted it, in the hands of Tyus Battle at the end of regulation, but his jumper missed forcing the extra session. In OT, Duke looked tired, and Battle, Frank Howard, and Pascal Chukwu all came up with big plays to pull off the upset win. When Duke’s freshman defensive ace Tre Jones left the game with an injury after colliding for a loose ball with Howard only 5:30 into the game, the tempo began to change as Battle (32 points) led the ‘Cuse counterpunch. Elijah Hughes hit the game’s shot-for-the-instant-age highlight of the season so far. Hughes threw up an approximate 75 foot heave that raced alongside the above-the-court scoreboard, then hit nothing but net at the halftime buzzer, to leave SU down just a point. Duke’s Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett lived up to their billing as the likely top two picks in June’s NBA Draft. Look at the numbers: Williamson 35 points, 10 rebounds; Barrett 23 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, one assist away from a triple-double.
HEROES: They were everywhere in Orange on this evening. Battle was a monster with his 32 points in all 45 minutes of action. Chukwu had the game of his two season SU career finishing with a double-double of 10 points and 18 rebounds, and some clutch OT foul shots. Howard awoke with a big second half of 16 points and four assists. Jim Boeheim found a way to coach this team from a season-low, to a season-high in just over 48 hours.
ZERO: This space intentionally left blank when you beat the No. 1 team for the first time since 2006, when Gerry McNamara led the ‘Cuse over UConn in the Big East Tournament.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse returns home to the Dome this Saturday, Jan. 19 to face Pittsburgh. The teams meet twice annually as ACC partners, and last season SU won by 14 points at home and by by five points at “The Pete.” The Panthers (12-5, 2-2), under spirited first year head coach Jeff Capel, knocked off No. 11 Florida State 75-62 Monday night. Game Time: 2:00 p.m. ET / TV: ACC Regional Sports Networks.