Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 69, #11 Syracuse 65

Posted by Walker Carey on March 23rd, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is in Omaha for the Midwest Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Coach K’s 1,100th Win Pushed Duke to the Elite Eight (USA Today Images)

  1. It was not aesthetically pleasing. It should be known by now that a close game does not always mean a good game. Tonight’s battle between ACC foes was assuredly a close game, but it was certainly far from a well-played or aesthetically pleasing contest. Duke won the game despite shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 19.2 percent from the three-point line. The Syracuse zone repeatedly forced Duke into bad possessions that resulted in difficult shot attempts. A deeper look at the offensive statistics finds it pretty amazing that Mike Krzyzewski‘s group was able to advance. One of the main reasons why the Blue Devils emerged victorious this evening was because its own zone was impactful in forcing Syracuse into careless turnovers that limited its scoring chances. The Orange finished with 16 turnovers and Duke converted those into 18 points of its own. It was a mistake-ridden game all around, but both teams deserve a lot of credit for not allowing their miscues to bury them and prevent this one from being close until the final buzzer.
  2. Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. were too much for Syracuse. Syracuse presented Duke with an unusual challenge. The Blue Devils normally have a decided size advantage over every team they play, but the Syracuse front line of Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu is as big as any group in the country. That aspect did not end up mattering too much tonight, however, as Duke freshmen big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. were arguably the most important players on the floor. Bagley turned in a game-high 22 points and bucked the Duke poor shooting trend by hitting eight of his 12 shots. Carter got to the free throw line 11 times and was a significant factor on the glass — he finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Even when Duke does not have the size advantage, the precocious talents of Bagley and Carter sure make it seem like the Blue Devils do.
  3. Duke is going to need to shoot much better if it wants to log a trip to the Final Four. The Blue Devils will certainly take tonight’s victory over the Orange, but they will need to shoot much better on Sunday against Kansas if they hope to advance to the Final Four. Duke can survive and advance one game in this tournament on 39.3 percent shooting, but when you are matched up with a blue-blooded team of Kansas’ caliber, it is going to need to hit more shots to log the victory. Most notably, senior guard Grayson Allen will need to improve on tonight’s 4-of-15 (3-of-14 3FG) performance because Kansas definitely has the horses to take advantage if one of Duke’s main offensive weapons has another off game.

Player of the Game. Gary Trent, Jr., Duke. There were several times throughout the second half where it looked like Duke was about to pull away and secure the victory, but Syracuse always had a response. Eventually the Blue Devils were able to wrap things up thanks to the heroics of their freshman guard. First, Trent made a jumper in the lane with 51 seconds to play to give his team a five point-lead; he then sealed the game with a pair of free throws in the last 10 seconds to arrive at the final score. On a night when he did not shoot the ball very well (5-of-13 from the field), Trent came up with several winning plays down the stretch to help his team advance to the Elite Eight.


  • “I thought both teams played their hearts out. A great game to win and a tough game to lose.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, expressing his thoughts on the close battle.
  • “It was a battle. It was a fight. We knew going in it was probably going to be a battle to the end.” – Duke guard Grayson Allen, acknowledging his team was prepared for a close game.
  • “We started out playing as well offensively as we had in a long time. We hit a rough spot near the end of the first half and never really recovered from it.” – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, lamenting the close loss.

Sights and Sounds. It was a much more subdued atmosphere than the one Kansas fans provided in the first game, but the Duke fans that made the trip to Omaha announced their arrival when the Blue Devils went on a run at the end of the first half to stretch their lead to seven. A notable member of the Duke crowd was NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, as his son, Justin, is a walk-on for the Blue Devils.

What’s Next. Duke advances to the Elite Eight where it will play Kansas on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio on the line.

WCarey (318 Posts)

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