A quick take on Syracuse’s 97-72 blowout loss against Duke Saturday evening at the Dome, in front of the largest on-campus crowd (31,803) in college basketball this season:
WHAT HAPPENED: In the final regular season game pitting the two winningest coaches in Division I history, Duke dominated from the get-go scoring the first 14 points of the game, shooting 60% and leading 51-34 at halftime. Syracuse (15-14, 9-9) did not score its first basket until after the first media timeout at the 15:27 mark, keeping the overflow crowd more than restless. It didn’t get much better in the second half with SU basically trailing by 20 points or more most of the way. In a classy move before tipoff, the university honored Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski by designating a future academic scholarship for a military veteran in his name, before he heads off into retirement after the season. Coach K recorded his 1,195th career victory, keeping him 97 wins ahead of Jim Boeheim (1,098), with Duke easily sweeping the two regular season games against the ‘Cuse (79-59 in Durham January 22). Among the 31,00 plus on hand (including Hall of Famer Allen Iverson), were a school-record 8,335 SU students who have been simply marvelous supporting the team all season.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse’s starting frontcourt of Jimmy Boeheim, Cole Swider, and Frank Anselem had no answer defensively against Duke’s trio of Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams and AJ Griffin, and that Orange threesome also struggled offensively combining for just two points. In turn, making the most of their playing time off the bench were Benny Williams (14 points), Bourama Sidibe (11 points) and John Bol Ajak (two points, two rebounds), who did their best but had little success to stymie the Blue Devils and their red-hot 54% shooting for the game (including 15 treys). Duke (25-4, 15-3) also controlled the boards outrebounding the ‘Cuse 38-to-25. With Symir Torrence suffering an injury in the first half, Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard carried the load in the SU backcourt with Buddy Boeheim finishing with a team-high 23 points and Girard scoring 18 points.
HERO: Duke’s 6’10” frosh phenom Banchero was impressive scoring points or finding open teammates for baskets, as he finished with 21 points (four 3’s) and nine assists, playing like he will be the top overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. The 7’1″ Williams was a terror underneath with a double-double of a game-high 28 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots, while Griffin was 6-of-10 from long range among his 20 points.
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ZERO: Dropping to 15-14 overall, Syracuse is in unchartered territory in the Jim Boeheim era. SU will have to win a minimum of one of its last two games against North Carolina (see below) and Miami (March 5 in the Dome) to enter the ACC Tournament with an overall winning record. If Syracuse can finish at least 16-15 before playing in the tournament in Brooklyn, it keeps realistic hopes alive that it can end up with a winning record to extend the program’s streak to 52 consecutive winning seasons dating back to 1970-71.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse completes a late-season blitz of playing five games in nine days facing North Carolina this coming Monday night, February 28 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The teams split their two games last season, each winning on its homecourt. In fact, Syracuse is 0-5 all-time against the Tar Heels in the Smith Center. North Carolina (21-8, 13-5) blitzed North Carolina State 84-74 on the road Saturday, its third straight victory. Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN.
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