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Duke men's basketball hosts Syracuse looking to get back on its feet

The Blue Devils faced a two-game January losing streak a year ago as well

<p>Grayson Allen and Marshall Plumlee went through a two-game ACC skid last January, including a home loss to Miami. They'll look to get Duke back on track Monday against the Orange.</p>

Grayson Allen and Marshall Plumlee went through a two-game ACC skid last January, including a home loss to Miami. They'll look to get Duke back on track Monday against the Orange.

For the second straight year, the Blue Devils find themselves saddled with a two-game losing streak after giving up more than 90 points in a home loss.

Duke made major adjustments a season ago, employing a 2-3 zone for much of the afternoon to break its skid with an impressive road win at then-No. 6 Louisville. Amile Jefferson delivered a breakout performance in that game, posting 19 points and seven rebounds, but the senior captain won't be around this time to lead the charge.

With Jefferson still watching from the sidelines with a fractured right foot, No. 20 Duke will look to bounce back from losses to Clemson and Notre Dame against former Blue Devil Michael Gbinije and Syracuse at 7 p.m. Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

"It was mentioned before the [Notre Dame] game—we don’t want to lose. We don’t want to lose two in a row like we did last year," sophomore Grayson Allen said after Saturday's game. "Once we get back and move on from this one, we’ll probably be talking about moving on similar to last year’s team when we had two losses in a row like this. We’ve got to do it in our own way. We’ve got a lot to work on. We’ve got to grow up as a team and really come together.”

Duke (14-4, 3-2 in the ACC) showed plenty of offensive potential Saturday, but could not get the stops it needed at the end of either half to stay ahead of the Fighting Irish. Loose balls seemed to always find their way into the hands of Notre Dame players, despite the Blue Devils having plenty of chances to secure possession. The Fighting Irish took full advantage, outscoring Duke 18-4 in second-chance points and racking up 50 points in the paint.

Had the Blue Devils grabbed an extra rebound or two or made a few more free-throws, and had Notre Dame not hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the shot clock, the outcome of Saturday's game might have been different.

"I said this since Amile got out—the margin between us winning and losing is narrow," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We need to realize who we are and our attention to detail, and it’s the little things we have to get better at. We have no margin there."

The margin for error gets no wider against the Orange (12-7, 2-4) and Gbinije, who will return to his former stomping grounds for the final time in his career. The swingman posted 19.5 points per game in two games against the Blue Devils last year, including 27 in a loss at the Carrier Dome.

After an 0-4 start to ACC play, Syracuse has won two straight, thanks in part to the return of its head coach. Jim Boeheim returned to the sidelines for the Orange's Jan. 9 loss to North Carolina after serving a nine-game suspension for NCAA violations. The Tar Heels spoiled Boeheim's return to the Carrier Dome, but Syracuse has since won two straight, including a dominant 83-55 win at Wake Forest Saturday afternoon.

The Orange punished the Demon Deacons on the glass, turning 16 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. On the perimeter, the ever-streaky Trevor Cooney knocked down 6-of-11 3-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points.

But Syracuse gave Wake Forest a chance to hang around by committing 27 fouls and sending the Demon Deacons to the free-throw line 42 times. If the Blue Devils are able to create a similar situation by penetrating Boeheim's well-oiled 2-3 zone, they could live at the foul line yet again Monday. Duke scores 19.4 points per game from the charity stripe, and its 350 made free throws rank seventh in the nation.

Monday's game will also be the first time this season that Duke has played two ACC games in a three-day window. The Blue Devils had several such stretches in the nonconference, but without Jefferson and against a greater level of competition, Duke's starters have not gotten as much rest as would be normally desired.

Against Notre Dame, four of the five Blue Devil starters logged at least 37 minutes—the lone exception was Ingram, who picked up his fourth personal foul with more than 17 minutes remaining in the game and was forced to the bench for a sizable chunk of the second half.

"They have to play heavy minutes and we have a quick turnaround. Monday will be a tough game," Krzyzewski said. "We have these Saturday-Monday things, and that is more of a challenge for us than some other teams because of youth and number of players. But again, no excuses. We have to be ready and we’re playing a really good Syracuse team."

Brian Pollack and Seth Johnson contributed reporting.


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