They showed the heart and effort needed to win, but the Duke Blue Devils proved too much for the Syracuse Orange, ending the Orange’s miracle March run in the Sweet 16 by the score of 69-65.
The offense from the Orange was the biggest question heading into this one, but Syracuse came out aggressive to start, looking to lob the ball over the back of zone. Two alley-oops to Paschal Chukwu got the Syracuse fans who traveled to Omaha on their feet, as it opened up penetration for Syracuse’s perimeter players.
The improved offensive success didn’t last forever, as the Duke zone made it hard for the Orange to get the ball into the high post. Time and time again, Syracuse was left dribbling on the perimeter, instead of getting the ball to a flashing Matthew Moyer, Marek Dolezaj, or Oshae Brissett.
Tyus Battle did his best to keep the Orange in it in the first half, finishing the first frame with a team high 11 points; however, 12 Syracuse turnovers in the first half didn’t help Battle’s efforts. Those turnovers allowed the Blue Devils to beat the Orange down the court, negating any chance for the Orange to set up their zone.
The Orange were up 27-24 with 5:20 left in the first half, but a 10-0 run from Duke gave the Blue Devils the 34-27 lead heading into the break. Duke was able to break down the Syracuse zone by getting the ball to their talented bigs at the high post, allowing them to take advantage of the mismatch inside.
After combining for just four points on 1-of-12 shooting in the first half, Frank Howard and Brissett finally contributed to the game with the first two buckets of the second half — they also led to a Coach K jacket toss. With the defense active, and the offense showing some more ball movement, the Orange were able to cut the deficit to just one at the under 16 minutes timeout.
Despite numerous chances to tie it or take the lead, the Orange struggled to capitalize, allowing the Blue Devils to build their lead back up to nine with 11:45 remaining. However, Brissett turned up his offensive production, getting into the lane and converting around the rim or at the charity strike. A contact layup from the freshman forward cut the deficit to four with 7:41 remaining.
The Orange were giving themselves hope with the possibility of retaking the lead, but their inability to finish a defensive play with a rebound doomed them late. Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. were too much to handle for the Syracuse forwards, as Duke grabbed 16 offensive rebounds for the game.
They fought ‘til the final buzzer, but Syracuse couldn’t find a way to continue to silent the haters one more time.
Hell of a season and a great effort against one of the best teams left in the field here. We’ll have more over the weekend and on Monday. Congrats on a fun run, ‘Cuse.