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Syracuse offense stalls against defensive-minded Duke

Syracuse was held to an ACC low 55 points against Duke

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 18 Duke at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team ran into a bulwark on Saturday as Duke’s defense limited the Orange to 55 points, a low for the team in conference play. The lowest point total on the season was a 44 point effort in a drubbing at Illinois in the early season.

It was a tough row to hoe as Syracuse shot just 19-55 (34.5%) from the floor and had just seven assists on those 19 made baskets. The No. 30 team in KenPom defensive efficiency limited Syracuse’s front-court in particular by doubling Jesse Edwards down low.

“I thought Duke was really good defensively today. They just doubled and pushed and were physical with Jesse down inside. That’s something he’s had problems with and we need him obviously to be a factor on the offensive end,” Said Jim Boeheim.

Syracuse’s star center was held to his second lowest point total of the season with five points on 2-3 shooting. Edwards has only taken three shots or less once in the last two seasons — the 11-minute outing at Boston College last year when he fractured his wrist. Edwards simply wasn’t able to get shots against Duke’s doubles.

“They doubled on the dribble. I would dribble once or twice and they would come over, usually with the low man,” Edwards said. “But then they did a good job not leaving too many open shooters for me to pass to.

“Looking back at it I probably should’ve had it get out of my hands earlier.”

Duke v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

Syracuse’s starting backcourt combined for 39 points, but no other Orange player scored in double-figures. The bench combined for five points. Syracuse wasn’t able to get into any type of rhythm in the half-court.

“They’re good defenders, long athletic guys who were physical with us. We just gotta be better with that and move around more, set some more screens and get guys the ball where they need it, like Jesse down low when he’s moving and screening and throw him — lobs, stuff like that. It’s all up to us to make more plays. We’ll be better,” Joe Girard said, who scored 21 points on nine shots.

Outside of Mintz and Girard, the rest of the team combined to shoot 7-30 (23.3%) from the floor. Mintz had some great plays in transition but uncharacteristically struggled within the half-court due to an unenviable matchup with Jeremy Roach.

“I think being physical with everybody whether it was me on the ball or guys off ball. I think we let them disrupt us a little bit and it really threw us off as a unit,” Mintz acknowledged.

Trailing by double-digits for much of the second half, Boeheim turned to Quadir Copeland for the first time in six games looking for a spark. Syracuse played four forwards in desperate search of some sort of production.

“We could get nothing going at that position,” Boeheim said.

Syracuse’s defense wasn’t much better than its offense. Mintz made some bright individual defensive efforts which led to steals and dunks, but the 2-3 zone surrendered open looks to Duke and the Blue Devils made a season-high 13-26 (50%) from three. Duke also won the rebounding battle 38-25.

“They made a lot more shots than they usually do. Sometimes that just happens. Obviously we gotta cover a little bit better, just getting them off their spot a little bit more. They made a lot of shots. Credit to them,” Said Girard.

The JMA Wireless dome played host to the largest crowd of the Syracuse and college basketball season with 31,063 fans in attendance. With the second half comeback attempt proving to be a non-starter, Syracuse fans started heading for the exits at the penultimate media timeout.

“It’s disappointing. We had a great crowd, fans were great,” Boeheim admitted. “It’s always disappointing when you get a lot of people and you don’t play well.”