Duke had a poor shooting day but still won by 16.

Beyond the arc: Duke can now win without its best offense

With a 60-44 beatdown of Syracuse in Marvin Bagley III's return, Duke picked up its fifth straight win. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways:

1. Duke is just fine on defense with Bagley

I will have to eat my words here. The Blue Devils are not better on defense without Bagley. 

They proved that Saturday with Bagley back, shutting down the Orange offense almost entirely. Syracuse's post players got nothing going, which had been a weak spot for Duke, even in its new zone defense. 

The Orange shot just 31.5 percent from the floor and got owned in the paint. With the win, the Blue Devils moved to No. 18 in basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency rankings—something few would ever have predicted just two weeks ago. 

2. Don't expect Grayson Allen to keep scoring

With Bagley back on offense, Allen fell back into his less aggressive form Saturday, scoring just six points on 3-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. That's just what we should expect from Allen from now on, with a tick better shooting. 

He simply won't be the same offensive force he was in the four previous games without Bagley—there aren't enough basketballs for the both of them. The offense will continue to run through Bagley, not Allen, for the foreseeable future. 

3. Duke can now win without its best offense

The Blue Devils certainly didn't have their best day on offense—they shot just 2-of-18 from deep and scored fewer points than they did against Virginia, the nation's top defensive team. Duke's starting guards struggled mightily, combining to shoot just 6-of-28 from the floor—a number they will be hard-pressed to repeat again. 

With their newfound defensive success, the Blue Devils have shown that they don't need to be shooting lights-out to win—something that should help them immensely in March. 

Three key stats: 

1. 8-of-9 shooting for Bagley

Bagley showed no signs of rust in his return, shooting nearly perfectly from the floor and finishing just three rebounds shy of a double-double with 19 points. Forward Wendell Carter Jr. also added 16 points and 10 rebounds. 

2. 17 Orange turnovers

Duke's defense did well to pry the ball away from Syracuse, forcing 13 steals for 17 turnovers. They were especially stingy in the post, forcing forward Oshae Brissett into a team-high six giveaways. 

3. 36 Duke points in the paint 

The Blue Devils made easy work of the Orange down low, outscoring them 36-12 in the paint. Syracuse's starting big men combined for just 12 points anywhere on the floor. 

Looking forward:

Heading into the last two games of its conference schedule, No. 5 Duke is in the best shape it has been all year. Its defense is firing on all cylinders, helping the Blue Devils look like one of the most complete teams in the country, when you consider their electric offense. 

Duke will have to sustain this momentum on the road, a place it has struggled at times this year, Monday at Virginia Tech. 

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