Syracuse just can't seem to do enough to get a win over a ranked team this season.
And once again, it came down to only a matter of inches.
Cornelia Fondren missed a game-tying shot with two seconds left and her Orange lost, 74-72, to No. 13/12 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Fondren's put back attempt banked off the glass and rolled along the side of the rim before, ultimately, falling to court that bears Mike Krzyzewski's name.
"(Duke) did what they had to do at the end of the game," Quentin Hillsman said. "They made plays to win the basketball game."
Syracuse couldn't take advantage of the turnover-prone Blue Devils so its struggles continued against teams inside the top 25. Despite being ranked No. 21, the Orange still hasn't beaten a ranked team in five tries this year.
In a few of those losses, Syracuse has squandered late leads in the final few minutes. In this one, the Orange actually trailed, 65-53, with just over seven minutes remaining.
Duke dominated in the first half by shooting 67 percent from the field and by using its quick ball movement and patient approach to generate easy opportunities in its halfcourt offense. The Orange, instead, chose to engage in a outside shooting contest against one of the best teams in the country in defending 3-pointers. Syracuse shot 7-20 from behind-the-arc in the half, while the efficient Blue Devils went 7-8 and didn't resort to as many long shots early in possessions like the Orange did.
Then Syracuse started the second half with another missed three and saw its eight point intermission deficit quickly expand to 13. What kept Syracuse in the game was its ability to rebound and Duke's inability to avoid turnovers.
Alexis Peterson scored an easy layup after picking off Mercedes Riggs, one of 25 turnovers by the Blue Devils. Peterson had 18 points and four steals, and her defensive assertiveness and offensive tenacity kept the Orange within striking distance during the second half.
And, eventually, the outside shots started to fall.
Brianna Butler scored 23 points and ignited the comeback with three 3-pointers in the last four minutes. With Syracuse trailing 72-66, she hit 3's on back-to-back possessions, which tied the game with 52 seconds left.
"Overall, we made some plays down the stretch to get us back in the ball game," Hillsman said. "Brianna Butler was amazing. She made some big shots for us."
Then, Fondren fouled Rebecca Greenwell, a 91 percent free throw shooter, with 26 seconds left and the redshirt freshman made both shots at the line to give her team a two point lead.
Syracuse had two final chances to tie the game -- a floater by Diamond Henderson from the left corner and a bank shot from Fondren amidst traffic.
"We wanted to get an opportunity to shoot the ball and get an offensive rebound and a put back. So we got everything we wanted," Hillsman said.
But like so often this season, the basketball gods weren't on Syracuse's side. Both shots swirled out.
"Everything sort of fell into place for us," Hillsman said. "Except for the ball."