The outcome was not what I (and Duke fans) wanted to see, but at least the game lived up to all of the hype. In front of the largest crowd at the Carrier Dome on Syracuse’s campus (35,446), the undefeated #2 Orange survived in overtime to beat #17 Duke, 91-89. Syracuse improved to 21-0 on the season, their best start in school history.
The fact that Duke stayed in the game that long just proves how good this Blue Devils team can be.
Foul trouble was a HUGE problem midway through the second half for Duke. First Amile Jefferson picked up his fourth foul with 11:25 to go. Up until that point, he had been the x-factor. Then, super freshman Jabari Parker picked up his fourth foul with 10:45 to go. Andre Dawkins joined the four foul group with 9:27 to go. Rodney Hood joined the long list with 2:02 to go.
However, the Blue Devils kept battling.
The game was tied at 70-70 with 3:47 to go and went back-and-forth from there. But the end of the game for Duke was not without its issues. Parker fouled out with 1:42 to go while driving to the basket (it looked to be a flop job). Parker finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. He was also the biggest cheerleader on the bench. Jefferson would foul out with 30 seconds to go on what looked like another flop job. Jefferson finished with 14 points, seven rebounds (six on the offensive end), and five assists.
With 47.6 seconds to go, Rasheed Sulaimon hit a three pointer to tie the game at 75-75 (he missed the free throw). After Syracuse’s super frosh Tyler Ennis hit two free throws with just four seconds to play, Sulaimon hit another three, this one off-balance, at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Overtime had just as much suspense.
In OT, Dawkins made two 3-pointers and scored five straight points to give Duke the four point lead with 1:23 to go. However, Syracuse continued to hit their free throws, especially Ennis. Syracuse also exploited Duke’s lack of size, with Dawkins forced to guard Jerami Grant (three straight dunks to start the overtime period for the 6’8 forward).
With 15 seconds to go and Duke trailing 88-87, Hood drove aggressively to the basket for the dunk but missed it. Replays showed he was clobbered but no foul was called. Sulaimon would hit two free throws to give Duke the one point lead with nine seconds left, but Ennis made two more free throws to retake the lead.
Duke had another shot to win it, but Quinn Cook’s three missed everything and Syracuse escaped with the hard fought victory.
But there were so many missed opportunities for Duke. Tyler Thornton passed up a wide open layup with ten seconds left in regulation to pass it to Dawkins, who was just about out of bounds, which led to a turnover. Thornton did hit three straight 3-pointers in the second half when the Blue Devils were down seven points. Duke had 18 offensive rebounds, but missed quite a few shots around the basket. Oh and Jefferson, and later Marshall Plumlee, would not turn to the basket when receiving the ball at the foul line in the middle of the zone to at least keep Syracuse honest.
What kept Duke in the game was their three pointers: they made 15 of them compared to just three for Syracuse. However, the ‘Cuse made 26-of-32 free throws compared to 12-of-17 for Duke.
What was so great about the game was the lack of turnovers in such a high-intensity game: both teams committed just eight turnovers.
Dawkins ended up fouling out at the end of OT with 14 points. Sulaimon scored 16 points and dished out six assists off the bench. Hood ended up not fouling out with 14 points.
For Syracuse, CJ Fair scored a career-high 28 points (12-of-20). Grant also recorded a career-high 24 points, while also hauling in 14 rebounds. Ennis scored 14 points and dished out nine assists. Trevor Cooney chipped in 14 points.
Duke dropped to 6-3 in the ACC. They look to get back in the win column on Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Wake Forest at 9pm ET. Circle February 22nd on your calendar, as the Orange travel to Cameron for a 6pm ET rematch.