Duke vs. Syracuse: Score, Grades and Analysis

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2014

The No. 2 Syracuse Orange (21-0, 8-0 ACC) remain perfect, picking up their 21st win of the year following a 91-89 victory in overtime over the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils (17-5, 6-3 ACC).

It's the best start in Syracuse history, per ESPN's Andy Katz:

This was the first time the two schools had met in an ACC game, and if this is a sign of things to come, college basketball fans better get ready.

The two teams battled neck and neck for much of the contest. Syracuse took a seven point lead with 6:40 left in the second half, the largest lead either team held during the game, but Duke responded with three-pointers from Tyler Thornton on their next three possessions to bring them within two points. The back-and-forth nature of the game made for thrilling entertainment. 

Jim Boeheim said it was the best game he's ever coached in the Carrier Dome, per CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander:

Even after both freshman forward Jabari Parker and sophomore center Amile Jefferson fouled out late in regulation, the Blue Devils kept hanging around.

Things looked bleak, though, when they turned the ball over with a little more than four seconds left. Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis knocked down two free throws to put the Orange up 78-75.

Channeling his inner Jeff Capel, sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Many wondered why Syracuse didn't foul Sulaimon before he got the shot off. Boeheim explained that he wanted C.J. Fair to commit the intentional foul, but he couldn't track Sulaimon down, per Syracuse basketball.

Three-point shooting was the biggest reason Duke stayed in the game, but it would be the Blue Devils' ultimate undoing.

Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde described Duke's unsustainable strategy in overtime:

Syracuse merely needed to hit its foul shots, and that's exactly what it did.

Sophomore Rodney Hood nearly put Duke back on top with 15 seconds remaining, opting for an emphatic left-handed dunk. Junior Rakeem Christmas met him at the rim, dispatching the shot with authority. However, Christmas caught quite a bit of Hood's arm, but the referees swallowed the whistle.

The combination of Fair and Jerami Grant came up large for the Orange. They combined for 52 of their team's 91 points, with Grant (24 points) notching the double-double after grabbing 12 rebounds.

Ennis and sophomore Trevor Cooney added 14 points apiece. Christmas also played a big role, scoring seven points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also drew the fouls that sent Parker and Jefferson packing.

Speaking of Parker, he finished with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting and nine rebounds. The freshman sensation seemed to struggle early with Syracuse's zone defense.

Jefferson and sophomore Rodney Hood each contributed 14 points.

Duke's bench stepped up in a big way, with Sulaimon scoring 16 points and senior Andre Dawkins adding 14.

As a team, the Blue Devils shot 15-of-36 from behind the arc, compared to 3-of-4 for the Orange. Shooting is the best way to break down a zone defense, and Duke was able to hit key three-pointers at nearly every juncture.

Eventually, the well dried up.

The turning point of the second half was when Parker picked up his fourth foul with 10:45 left in regulation. Jefferson had already been sitting on the bench with four fouls.

Up until then, it looked like Duke might be able to take the lead and not look back, but that foul meant for the rest of the game, Mike Krzyzewski would have his leading scorer (Parker) and one of his best rebounders (Jefferson) off the court for critical stretches.

Coach K would eventually bring both players back on, but they were clearly playing much more tentatively, trying to avoid fouling out.


Key Player Grades

Jabari Parker, Duke: C+

For a while, much of Jabari Parker's struggles in this game could be pinned to Coach K. He failed to put the freshman phenom in the middle of the zone so he could attack the basket. Instead, Parker was often forced into taking outside shots, which weren't falling.

When Krzyzewski did change his strategy around, Duke—and Parker—found a lot of success.

You can't overstate how much Parker's foul trouble hurt the Blue Devils, though. Even if that fifth foul was somewhat questionable, he still put his team in a bad position in what was the most critical stage of the game.


Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke: A

Rasheed Sulaimon put this team on his back in Parker's absence. He made a three-pointer with 48 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 75-75, and then he had that huge three at the buzzer to push the game into overtime.

Along with his 16 points, Sulaimon dished out six assists.


C.J. Fair, Syracuse: A+

All eyes were on the Carrier Dome, and C.J. Fair managed to have the best game of his career.

The 28 points were a career-high for Fair, and he also grabbed five rebounds. He did thrive when Parker and Amile Jefferson weren't on the floor, but that's what a great player is supposed to do when given the opportunity.

Fair took this game over in the second half. Any time Syracuse needed a big shot, the senior star was there to knock it down.


Jerami Grant, Syracuse: A

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Jerami Grant's performance was that he knocked down all 10 of his free throws. A team's performance at the charity stripe can often be the difference in a close game, and Grant helped Syracuse dominate from the line.

Without Jefferson on the floor, Grant had his way inside against Duke.


What's Next?

Syracuse stays at home for their next game. The Orange take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Monday night. Duke heads back to Durham for a date with Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

Those who are already prepping for the rematch won't have to wait long. These two will meet three weeks from today at Cameron Indoor Stadium.


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