Syracuse handed Duke its second loss of the season as the No. 1 team in the country couldn't overcome the absences of Tre Jones and Cam Reddish.
Tyus Battle scored 32 points for the Orange in the 95-91 upset win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night.
Reddish (illness) missed the game and Jones suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, putting a lot of pressure on the rest of Duke's roster. Zion Williamson had 35 points and 10 rebounds and RJ Barrett added 23 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, but it wasn't enough to avoid the disappointing home loss.
The Blue Devils fell to 14-2 on the season, while Syracuse is now 12-5, including 3-0 in true road games.
Tre Jones Injury Exposes Duke's Lack of Depth
Although he has often been overlooked this year with so much talent around him, Jones is an outstanding college player and a key part of the Blue Devils' success this season.
His value might not have been appreciated until he suffered a shoulder injury less than six minutes into Monday's game.
The point guard had two points, two assists and four steals in the first few minutes while helping Duke to a 14-6 lead, but Syracuse was able to get back into the game after he was forced to leave.
It was clear what type of loss this was for the Blue Devils:
Not only can Jones run the offense with impressive efficiency, but he is also an elite defender who can shut down opposing players on the perimeter. Without him, the team loses a lot on both ends of the court.
With Reddish also out, it put a lot of pressure on the rest of the players to carry a much bigger load.
Williamson and Barrett did their jobs as usual while Alex O'Connell had a huge night with 16 points, but the lack of alternative options remains a concern.
Duke has gotten most of its offensive production from its four main freshmen, as only eight players average more than 10 minutes per game. This had been working with everyone healthy, but it clearly leads to problems when one or more of the key players is unavailable.
Even foul trouble for Williamson or Barrett could lead to problems against quality opponents.
Losing Jones for an extended stretch would be a killer, especially considering the lack of reliable alternatives coming off the bench.
Syracuse's Performance a Reminder ACC Has Most Depth in the Country
Injuries or not, Syracuse had an incredible showing against the best team in college basketball.
Tyus Battle scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 32 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Frank Howard came through with a big second half to end up with 16 points and five assists. Paschal Chukwu showed what he can do as well with 10 points and 18 rebounds.
Knocking down 11 three-pointers also helped, including this heave before halftime:
Syracuse has had some disappointing performances this year—especially Saturday's 73-59 loss to Georgia Tech—but it can match up with anyone in the country when it plays to its capability.
Of course, the Orange are at best the eighth-best team in the ACC.
The conference entered Monday with seven teams in the top 26 of the NET rankings, including the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and four in the top 10. The latest AP Poll has six ACC teams in the Top 25, with five in the first 13.
These top teams are contenders to make a deep run in March, while unranked teams like Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh are also capable of pulling off an upset.
This could lead to a wild year in the league.
Performance Against Zone Showcases Zion Williamson's Versatility
A zone is usually the best way to slow down a strong, athletic player like Williamson. It can keep a player out of the lane and deter him from attacking the basket.
Against the iconic 2-3 zone that Syracuse employs, it would have been understandable to see the freshman struggle. That obviously wasn't the case Monday.
The forward was incredible against the Orange, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He made just one of his five three-point attempts but still made several jump shots in the game.
With two starters out, he had to take on a bigger offensive role and more than did his job.
While the scoring was impressive, he was also in control throughout the game. He generally made the right pass and only had two turnovers against a stingy defense.
Jeff Goodman of Stadium discussed Williamson's smart play:
His highlights are always fun, but his basketball awareness makes him an even better player and is a major reason he should succeed in the pros.
Meanwhile, Williamson also flexed his muscle on the defensive end with four blocks.
His ability to contribute on both ends makes him arguably the best player in college basketball.
The schedule only gets tougher for Duke as it faces No. 4 Virginia on Saturday in what could be the biggest game of the conference season. Syracuse will return home to face Pittsburgh.