For 37 minutes, Syracuse kept their dreams alive. Unfortunately, the ninth-seeded Orange (16-17) missed their last nine shots in the final three minutes and top-seeded Duke (27-5) scored the game’s final ten points to pull out an 88-79 game in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
Without leading scorer Buddy Boeheim, who was suspended for hitting a Florida State player in SU’s previous game, Syracuse played arguably their best game of the season, hanging tough against the conference champions who had manhandled them twice during the regular season.
With the short-handed Orange trying to protect players from fouls, Duke proved to be too much on offense in the second half, shooting 61.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three. SU made 13 three-pointers in the game, led by Jimmy Boeheim’s half dozen, including eight in the second half as they scrapped to remain in the contest.
The Blue Devils rode an 8-0 run to take control, then pushed their lead out to 24-13 just over eight minutes into the game. Joe Girard III brought Syracuse right back into the game, scoring ten straight points to make it a one-point contest.
Duke stretched the margin back out to eight at one point, but the Orange came back, grabbing their first lead since the first two minutes of the contest when Jimmy Boeheim hit consecutive three-pointers. Symir Torrence added a lay-up to make it eight straight SU points for a 33-30 lead.
The Blue Devils responded with six points, but Syracuse bounced right back, hanging seven of their own. Following a clock malfunction, Girard capped the burst by burying a buzzer-beating three from the right corner for a 40-36 halftime lead.
Cole Swider opened the second half with a triple for the Orange, boosting the margin to seven. SU would reach that distance three more times, but a run of eight straight Duke points gave them a 57-55 lead six-and-a-half minutes into the second session.
The Blue Devils momentarily lost the lead then regained and held it for the next eight minutes. With a little over four minutes left, Girard knocked down a trey to pull Syracuse within one, then Boeheim drove for a basket, putting them on top, 79-78, with 3:32 to play.
Unfortunately, that would be the last score for the Orange, as Duke closed the game with ten straight markers to secure the victory.
Jimmy Boeheim had a career day, hitting 6-of-9 triples as he posted a game-high 28 points, grabbed a team-leading seven rebounds, and had three steals. Joe Girard III had 23 points, including 18 in the first half, knocking down four treys along the way. Cole Swider picked up the second half slack for Girard, with 11 of his 15 points coming after the break. Symir Torrence handed out 11 assists against a pair of turnovers and Bourama Sidibe notched three blocked shots.
Wendell Moore Jr. and Jeremy Roach were a force outside for Duke. Moore had four threes as he piled up 26 points while handing out eight assists and Roach connected from long distance five times for most of his 19 points. Mark Williams posted 15 points, all in the second half, 16 rebounds, and three blocks while Trevor Keels added 14 points. Paolo Banchero finished with ten points, ten rebounds, seven assists, and five steals.
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- Cole Swider’s fourth foul came with 15:00 remaining and hurt Syracuse badly. Swider had made his first three-pointer on the opening possession of the second half and the team was up, 55-49, when he left the contest. In the 91 seconds Swider was out, Duke scored eight straight points.
- Swider finished the season shooting 41.1 percent from three-point range, which puts him fifth in SU history for career three-point percentage on more attempts than anyone else in the top five, save for Matt Roe.
- The Orange’s short bench forced them to play passively on defense in the second half. After holding a 23-19 rebounding edge at halftime, SU permitted Duke a 24-16 margin in the second half and allowed them to shoot 66.7 percent on two-point shots, tallying 26 points in the paint in the half.
- After his sizzling first half (5-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-6 from three) and making his first shot after the break, Duke put the clamps down on Joe Girard III. Girard only had four shot attempts in over 14 minutes of play, not connecting on any of them.
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