An early second-half run gave #9 Duke some breathing room, enabling them to cruise to a 97-88 win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse on Saturday night. The Orange (13-9, 6-5 ACC) scored first out of halftime, drawing within two, but the Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2) countered with a 9-1 burst to gain control of the game.
As evidenced by the final score, Duke was able to roll up points almost at will, shooting over 57 percent in the game and nearly 68 percent on two-point attempts. Vernon Carey was a force inside, rolling up 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Blue Devils grabbed nearly half of their misses in the contest.
In contrast, SU struggled on offense, particularly on three-point shooting, which had been their calling card on the season. Syracuse collectively shot 6-of-26 from deep, marred by Elijah Hughes’ particularly rough night. The top scorer for the Orange made just 1-of-9 from long range, making him 3-for-21 on three-pointers in the last three games.
SU grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and forced 19 turnovers in the game, but those extra possessions only helped them stay within arm’s reach on a night where they shot under 39 percent from the floor.
Syracuse had a quick start, jumping out to an early five-point lead in the first two minutes. A Bourama Sidibe foul shot nudged the lead out to six just after seven minutes were gone. Three minutes later, a Buddy Boeheim three and a pair of free throws by Hughes stretched the lead to 21-14 with just over nine minutes left in the opening half.
Duke immediately struck back, erasing that gap in just over 90 seconds of play. A couple minutes later, the Orange pushed back in front when Quincy Guerrier made a pair from the stripe and a three-point play on consecutive possessions, giving the hosts a 28-23 lead with just under six minutes on the clock.
The Blue Devils worked the lead down and eventually used the final six points of the half to take a 40-36 halftime lead. After Marek Dolezaj opened the second half with a basket for SU, the guests tacked on nine of ten points, making it a 15-3 run overall for a 49-39 Blue Devil lead.
Syracuse chipped the margin down to seven, but consecutive Duke scores, including a triple, swelled the lead to 54-42 with a little over five minutes gone in the second half. The Blue Devils extended the lead out to 15 before the under-12 media timeout.
The Orange quickly got back within 11, then a three from Joe Girard III and a Boeheim jumper on consecutive trips made it a ten-point gap with a little over eight minutes to go. Four minutes later, a Boeheim foul shot made the gap nine and two from Girard drew SU within 79-72. Sidibe scored inside to make it a five-point game, but Duke added five points to make the lead double digits once more.
The Orange kept fighting, narrowing the lead to eight, then seven, then six on a Girard triple with under 100 seconds to go. Duke responded with a three-point play and SU was only able to get within seven points the rest of the way.
Marek Dolezaj paced the Orange with 22 points. Elijah Hughes struggled from long range, but still added 21 points, including all eight of his free throws. Joe Girard III added 17 points to his seven assists and four steals while Buddy Boeheim chipped in with 13.
Tre Jones backed Vernon Carey’s magnificent effort with 17 points, going a perfect 10-of-10 at the foul line. Cassius Stanley added 15 points to the Duke ledger. Matthew Hurt added a dozen points while Alex O’Connell chipped in with 11.
The Orange get some time off before returning to action on Saturday when they welcome Wake Forest to the Carrier Dome. The Demon Deacons (10-11, 3-8) reside in the basement of the ACC, even after their 56-44 home win over Clemson, and have a Wednesday trip to Louisville prior to the weekend matchup with SU.
Brandon Childress leads Wake with 15.4 points and 4.7 assists per game. Olivier Sarr averages nearly a double-double, posting 12.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing.
Saturday’s tip-off is slated for 8:00pm Eastern with the ACC Network televising the game.