A 91-89 scoreline isn’t something you expect from Syracuse games, but Duke got out the best of the soon-to-be number one team in the nation, making a game of it even after Jabari Parker was fouled out on a soft charging call, managing to push the game into overtime after some big shooting from Rasheed Sulaimon.
Syracuse become the 6th team to start the season at 21-0, and now that Arizona have lost will surely appear as the number one team when the new rankings come out. It took a very untypical game from the Orange to get the job done against a Duke team that couldn’t defend the paint or do anything more than shoot 3’s.
Jabari Parker finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds in the 26 minutes he played, getting a long break in the second half due to foul trouble. Duke managed to hang on without him and got a spark from his re-entry, but a soft call on an elbow he used to gain position inside the paint resulted in his ejection. All of his field goals came from inside the paint, finishing with 6-of-16 from the field.
Duke got 16 points from Sulaimon who hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the game into overtime (78-78) shortly after completing a four-point play that gave Duke the chance to extend the game. Duke shot 15-of-36 from beyond the arc, scoring 32 more points in the paint (the Orange are allowing 18.6 points per game in the paint in ACC games, fewest for any major conference team) and doing very little work in mid-range shooting.
It came down to who was more aggressive and dominated the paint, which was predictably Syracuse. Duke almost made up for that with their long-range shooting, but the final one from Connor Quinn only hit the board with no rim. C.J. Fair led Syracuse with 28 points, 18 of them coming from inside the paint. The final 23 points for Syracuse in the game came from either the paint of the free throw line. They finished with 45 points in the paint, and added a 26-of-32 night from the line compared to only 12-of-17 for Duke.
Tyler Ennis scored 14 points, adding 9 assists; he had 3 assists and 0 turnovers in the final 5 minutes of the 2nd half and overtime. His ability in the clutch this season continues to be impressive, with 17 assists with 0 turnovers while shooting 50% from the field after the 5 minute mark of the 2nd half.
It was just a great game. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a better game in here where both teams played at such a high level. Both teams just went after it. We’ve had a lot of games that have been here that are great. There’s never been one as good as this one.
Syracuse scored a season-high 1.34 points per possession (91 points in 68 possessions); Duke scored 1.29. Combined, it was the second-most efficient game this season between two major conference teams (the average is 1.04 points per possession).
While Duke shouldn’t see their national standing (#17) get hurt, it is the first time since 1995 when the Duke Football team had less losses than the basketball team in the same season, with the Blue Devils picking up their third ACC loss and fifth overall. For ‘Cuse who are now 21-0 including 8-0 in the ACC, this was something of a firepower display, showing that it’s not only defense that helps them get by.