The Duke Blue Devils made its first trip to Syracuse since 1994, and judging by Sunday's game, I'm not sure the Blue Devils will be in any rush to return any time soon. Duke fell 19-7 to the Syracuse Orange in a spectacularly dominant SU performance. As crazy as it sounds, the score makes this game seem closer than it was. I mean, Duke didn't score its second goal until 6:26 left in the third quarter. Through 38:34 minutes of play, SU outscored Duke 14-1. Simply put, Sunday's game was just a good old fashioned spanking.
Right from the start, the SU defense smothered the Duke offense. Myles Jones did not have a goal today. Let me say that again. Myles Jones did not have a goal today. Harvard held Jones to just two goals earlier this year but ironically the last time Myles Jones was held without a goal was in Duke's 15-16 loss to Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. Brandon Mullins deserves a big applause for his play, he has developed into one of the best shut down defenders in college lacrosse and ended Sunday with three caused turnovers and four groundballs. Mullins now has 40 CTs in his Syracuse career, placing him sixth on SU's all-time list for career caused turnovers and just seven more away from fourth on that all-time list. Mullins said after the game that he thought that he has been playing harder and with more confidence and assertive in his slides as the season has gone on. As a whole, the defensive unit looked nearly flawless for a large portion of the game.
Henry Schoonmaker has been having something of a resurgence in the last few games. Schoony had the first and fifth goals in Syracuse's 5-0 start. Schoonmaker had three goals on three shots on net and has four goals over the last two games. Kevin Rice also put away two goals on the opening run for SU, and the senior had four goals and three assists on the day. Rice now has 173 points in his career leaving him 56 points away from entering the SU all-time top ten list for career points. Dylan Donahue put away five goals and two assists, tying Rice for seven points on the day. Donahue continues to lead the Orange with 22 goals on the season. Although SU had just three scorers with multiple goals, seven other players added a tally.
Duke finally put away its first goal of the game with 1:29 remaining in the first period. It was Case Matheis scoring the lone Duke goal of the half, his only goal of the game, giving him just six on the season. The Blue Devils would be held scoreless for the next 25:03 minutes of play, during that time span Syracuse went on a 9-0 run. One of the most amazing things about this domination of Duke was that the Orange did this without Randy Staats who is dealing with a lower body injury. Coach Desko said after the game that Staats could be out for another week or two. If you take away the second leading scorer on any other team you would usually see a big down tick in scoring, that is how good this SU team is. Tim Barber came in and started at attack for Syracuse adding a goal and an assist.
"Obviously when you're playing without a guy like Randy everyone else has to step up and elevate their game," said Kevin Rice after the game, "I thought Timmy Barber did a really good job stepping in, you know he had the dodging goal, he was great on groundballs and riding..."
Coach Desko said that Syracuse could go back to Tim Barber next week as the starter, but could also mentioned Jordan Evans, JT Forkin, and Matt Lane as significant contributors with Staats out.
The Syracuse offense took 44 shots, 24 of which were on goal. Coach Desko and Kevin Rice both remarked after the game that they thought the one area where Syracuse could have done a better job was in getting more of its shots on net. The Orange received six extra man opportunities and took advantage on four of them. In the groundball department, Duke grabbed 39 against SU's 36. In net Bobby Wardwell had a fantastic game, giving up just two goals while making 11 saves. Wardwell had an unreal .846 save percentage on Sunday and while he has been good all season, he may have had his best game in net of the year making several one-on-one saves. Warren Hill saw action for the third time this year and managed three saves and five goals against. Duke had problems getting possessions in the first half, especially in the first quarter. The Blue Devils had just three shots in the first quarter and eight in the second. On the other side of the field, Duke's Luke Aaron finished his day early with just four saves, an abysmal .200 save percentage, and allowing 16 goals. It was a tough start for Aaron but he shouldn't take all of the blame as Syracuse took 17 shots in the first quarter making quick work of a very inexperienced Duke defense. Danny Fowler entered the game to start the fourth quarter and finished with one save and three goals against.
At the faceoff X, SU went 17-29 (.586) with Ben Williams taking down 14 of the 22 faceoffs he took for a .636 faceoff winning percentage and added 11 groundballs to his season total. After losing the opening faceoff of the game, Williams went on to win next 11 faceoffs. Three other players took faceoffs for the ‘Cuse: Zach Vehar (1-3), Mike Iacono (1-1), and Joe Demarco (1-2). Jack Rowe was the only Blue Devil to appear at the faceoff X and finished the game 12-26.
In last year's regular season 21-7 demolition of Syracuse, the Orange went 7-31 on faceoffs leaving SU with very few possessions, something that became a hallmark of the 2014 season. In the first half on Sunday we saw a similar situation to last year's game but with the situation flipped: few Duke possessions and even fewer Duke faceoff wins. The improved faceoff game has allowed this team to shine, and make no mistake about it, the 2015 Orange are about as dominant a team as can be had in modern college lacrosse.
The Orange will visit South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 12:00 pm. The game can be seen on ESPNU and heard on WTKW 99.5 FM. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates throughout the game.