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Syracuse 15 - Duke 14: ACC Men's Lacrosse Champs!

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The Syracuse Orange downed the Duke Blue Devils 15-14 at PPL Park in the ACC Championship game. The Orange got the win despite a poor defensive showing. Kevin Rice led the offense with a seven point performance.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

"We just asked our defense to get one more stop,"

said Coach Desko after the game referring to the final Duke possession, and that's just what the Syracuse Orange did. Coming out of the timeout with 35.1 seconds remaining in the game, Syracuse led 15-14. Case Matheis got the ball behind cage and drove up around the cage guarded by Jay McDermott. McDermott stayed with him and at goal-line extend Matheis tried to turn the corner and McDermott put him on the ground. Matheis shot while getting laid out and it sailed wide and high of the net. Paolo Ciferri won the race to the end line and finished out the game on the clear.

Just like that, Syracuse took down the Duke Blue Devils for the second time this year, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The win may have also wrapped up the #1 seed in the NCAA Championship.

The Orange did not bring its A game to start the day. The offense was not clicking, Ben Williams had problems at the faceoff X, and the defense looked befuddled.

Nicky Galasso started off the scoring, but Duke took the next five straight goals. The biggest problem for the defense was the off-ball play. The Orange cheated on slides, doubled when the didn't have to. Over and over, all day, that crease defender vacated the crease early leaving a Duke attackman open. The unit exhibited very poor communication, which could spell big problems for the Orange in the NCAA Tournament.

Hakeem Lecky snagged the second Syracuse goal with 2:35 left in the first quarter. Duke left Lecky wide open and gave him all day to shoot from deep and he burned the Blue Devils with a cannon of a shot (5-2 Duke). The first quarter ended with the score 6-2 after LSM Brian Dailey hit Justin Guterding with a cross crease pass in an unsettled, transition situation. The SU defense didn't cover Guterding giving him an easy goal on the crease (6-2 Duke).

The second quarter was like a completely different game for the SU offense. The Orange put together a five-goal run to get its second lead of the day at 7-6. Lecky picked up the third Syracuse goal on an alley dodge (6-3 Duke). Off the ensuing faceoff, Ben Williams won it to himself, took it into the box and hit Kevin Rice who fed Randy Staats on the doorstep (6-4 Duke). The final goal of the run came from Rice who juked Brian Dunne out of his shoes behind the net, took it around the crease and jammed it into the near-side corner (7-6 SU).

The only Duke goal of the second quarter came on another defensive breakdown. Jack Bruckner hit Justin Guterding ten yards out. The slide never came and Guterding buried it to tie the game (7-7). Bruckner had a heck of a game today with five goals on nine shots. The Orange regained the lead on a Donahue shot from the wing and less than two minutes later Rice hit Staats cutting across the crease for a nice goal (9-7 SU).

At the half it was pretty amazing to see the turnaround for the Syracuse offense. After being down 6-2 at the end of the first quarter, Syracuse went on a 7-1 run in the second.

The second half featured an early goal from Bruckner as he slid on top of the crease and got an assist from Myles Jones (9-8 SU). The goal continued to expose the SU defense as it seemed every long-pole was simply ball watching. Rice countered, however, moving up and around the crease, backing down his defender and using the long-pole's body to shield his crosse as he went over the top of the defender to score (10-8 SU). Galasso picked up the next goal as he grabbed a great, inside pass from Staats for the quick-stick goal (11-8 SU). Duke came right back and scored on a deep Myles Jones blast (11-9 SU). Jones, who had swelling in his hand from stiches, was not expected to be a huge factor, but surprised everyone with a three goal, two assist performance. Even Coach Desko after the game expressed that the Orange were not expecting such a big impact from Jones.

The SU defense faltered again on the tenth Duke goal of the day. Bruckner recived a pass on the crease and found himself unguarded for an easy goal (11-10 SU). Almost the entire defensive unit for Syracuse had migrated towards the ball side of the field leaving Bruckner open for the goal.

Not long after, Derek DeJoe curled around the crease and slammed home a low shot on Fowler. The goal was negated by the referees after they called him for a crease violation. Looking at the reply, it was clear DeJoe did not enter the crease, a tough call against ‘Cuse.

The third period ended with a great off-ball move from Kevin Rice. He gave up the ball to Staats on the wing and drifted underneath the double which moved towards Staats. Randy then hit Rice for a quick turnaround goal in the man-up situation (12-10 SU). The goal from Rice elevated him to 200 career points, the 16th SU player to reach that milestone. Congratulations to him, he has had an unbelievable career at Syracuse.

The Orange chose to move the long-pole off of Myles Jones in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Jones took advantage shouldering Joe Gillis and getting by him to fire one off and pull within one goal (12-11 SU). Gillis was asked to take on Jones several times and had rough day guarding him.

It took almost two and a half minutes for the next goal. Danny Fowler made a nice save on the SU EMO but gave up an in-close rebound which Staats batted in past him, a great box lacrosse style move giving Staats the hat trick (13-11 SU). Nevertheless, the SU defense gave up another bad goal not long after. Sean Young, playing as the crease defender, cheated towards the early double on Deemer Class, leaving Bruckner open on the crease (13-12 SU).

All game, the Duke defense had to chose between poling Galasso or Lecky. In the fourth, the Blue Devils moved the long-pole onto Lecky. Galasso took advantage and cut towards the crease where Rice found him almost entirely open to score on the run (14-12 SU).

Bobby Wardwell had eight saves on Sunday, but his biggest play of the day came on a race to the end-line. After penalties on Sean Young and Jay McDermott, SU found itself two men down for thirty seconds. Early on the man-up, Jones took a bounce shot that went high over the cage and Wardwell raced to the line, barely beating out two Duke players.

The game winning goal came off the stick of Tim Barber. With just 3:15 remaining in the game, Barber drove around the arc from the top of the box. Brian Dunne came out to play him and Barber deked inside, one of the best moves of the game, drove to the goal and went low on Fowler (15-12 SU). It really doesn't get much prettier than that. Thomas Zenker and Myles Jones put together the next two goals for Duke, leaving the score at 15-14 with 2:32 to go.

On the defensive end of the field, Syracuse cannot be happy with what transpired today. Wardwell was really great in net, but the defense let him down over and over, giving up multiple one-on-one opportunities on the crease. He did not have any saves in the first period but made four in the second period. The Orange gave up five points to both Jones and Bruckner. On a positive note for Syracuse, the Orange held the Blue Devils to 0-4 in man-up situations.

Offensively, Kevin Rice destroyed the Blue Devils for seven points. The senior had three goals and four assists. Galasso and Staats both added hat tricks. Most importantly, Staats looked like he was back to his pre-injury form. SU continued its EMO dominance, going 3-4 on extra man opportunities.

Ben Williams had, by far, his worst game of the season. He went 11-29 at the faceoff X. The Orange went with Cal Paduda in the second period, but nothing doing there as he finished 0-3. Duke used Kyle and Jack Rowe at the X with Kyle going 19-30 and Jack 2-2. Williams snagged nine groundballs but turned the ball over twice.

After the game, Coach Desko remarked about that the matchup that,

"this is a final four for sure."

That is sure hard to dispute. I fully expect both these programs to end up back in Philadelphia for Championship Weekend, assuming they don't have to play in the quarterfinals. I also expect Syracuse to take the #1 seed after beating UNC and Duke this weekend. Don't forget, though, the Orange still have a game against the Colgate Raiders this week.

The Orange will visit Colgate on Saturday at 3:30. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network and heard on WTKW 99.5 FM. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates throughout the game.