The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team came up short against the Duke Blue Devils, falling 86-66 from Cameron Indoor Stadium. The upset bid fell apart midway through the second half as Syracuse’s 17 turnovers would eventually come home to roost.
Maliq Brown had a career-high 26 points and Judah Mintz paced the Orange with 18 points, six assists and three steals but it wasn’t enough to overcome Duke’s transition offense and 8-8 outside shooting in the second half.
Syracuse hung tough with the Blue Devils for the first 20 minutes with Kyle Filipowski sidelined with two first half fouls. But Duke was able to decode the Syracuse attack by turning it over and getting out in transition for open threes — especially Jared McCain. Duke did not miss from three in the second half.
The mistake-making was on display as Syracuse was a little too casual with the basketball against Duke’s stout defense. Duke’s defense in the halfcourt proved to be a tough row to hoe for Syracuse, which struggled to get open looks and often settled for contested mid-range shots.
The Orange turned the ball over 17 times to Duke’s 11 but the Blue Devils really took the upper hand with a 26-11 points off turnovers advantage. Duke also had a 21-9 fastbreak points edge and points in the paint advantage to the tune of 46-32. Syracuse also lost its first game when out-rebounding an opponent this season. The Orange had just one more rebound than Duke at 31-30.
To the takeaways.
Not ready for prime time just yet
Reality will always hit. It’s just a matter of when and how painful.
To this point in the season Syracuse has beaten the teams it was supposed to and has done a commendable job beating teams who are of similar competition. But Syracuse hasn’t taken down a top dog just yet.
To be sure, Syracuse is ahead of schedule in the Autry era and has done a nice job positioning itself for success with good non-conference play. But Syracuse is now 0-3 in quadrant one games.
Duke broke the game open when McCain hit an open three in transition and gave his team a 13 point lead. Autry called timeout and while Syracuse traded buckets with the Blue Devils initially it wasn’t able to get the stops it needed, nor the margin back to single digits. It was synonymous with how the team wilted against Tennessee, Gonzaga and Virginia.
There have been encouraging signs of growth throughout the season. Syracuse can get there and it showed some fight against Duke, but the Orange isn’t quite ready just yet.
Good things take time.
Syracuse’s primary shooters are hardly shooting
Syracuse is going to have to find a way to get Chris Bell and Justin Taylor more shots. The two starting forwards are Syracuse’s top shooting threats and combined to shoot 0-3 overall and 0-2 from three at Duke.
Over the last five games Bell is 2-12 from three and while Taylor is 5-13, a 3-4 outing came against Niagara.
Syracuse doesn’t need to make threes to win games and yes, floor spacing matters. But those two guys aren’t necessarily out there for defense — Autry has Benny Williams and Quadir Copeland for that. Taylor does more than he gets credit for, but as long as he and Bell are going be on the floor the Orange has to find a way to get them both open shots from three and more involved in the overall offense.
If there were a silver-lining from Syracuse’s loss at Duke it was the play of Brown. The sophomore forward-turned-center had a career night with 26 points to go with seven rebounds.
Brown gives Syracuse its best offensive lineup and he’s the most mobile of the centers, able to defend on the perimeter and in space. His sleight of hand usually leads to a steal or two per game. He was the best defender Syracuse threw on Filipowski.
Brown is poised, knows his game and is even capable of knocking down an occasional three. With teams so heavily focused on slowing Mintz, JJ Starling and even Copeland now, opposing defenses lose track of Brown on ball screens and roll action. He’s been the beneficiary of all the attention the guards receive.
At this point he’s simply too valuable to be off the floor. But as previously stated, Syracuse will still need Naheem McLeod going forward. Quenten Post, DJ Burns, Armando Bacot and PJ Hall are more traditional big men. Syracuse will play each of those guys twice in the ACC.
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