After suffering back-to-back ACC losses against Clemson and Notre Dame, the Blue Devils had a chance to right the ship, but cold shooting and an inability to rebound cost them dearly.
A dominant effort by Syracuse on the offensive glass helped propel the Orange past No. 20 Duke 64-62 Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Center Marshall Plumlee led all scorers with 19 points and added 17 rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent the Blue Devils' third straight loss—their first three-game losing streak since the 2006-07 season.
“Our kids have fought the whole year,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’re under-manned, they’re underage and they’ve done a good job. When you lose, it makes you appreciate even more what you’ve done, and it should make you hungrier to win again.”
Sophomore Grayson Allen had a chance to put Duke (14-5, 3-3) ahead with less than 10 seconds to go, but his scoop shot in traffic fell off the rim and the Orange won the scrum for the loose ball. Malachi Richardson hit one of two free throws, and a heave at the buzzer did not go for the Blue Devils.
Syracuse junior Tyler Roberson controlled the offensive glass all night for the Orange, securing 20 rebounds—12 of them offensive—to help the visitors outrebound Duke 49-42 for the game. Roberson's efforts led to second- and third-chance opportunities for Syracuse, often in the form of kick-outs to open shooters from beyond the arc. Ultimately, the Blue Devils finished with 24 defensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 26 offensive rebounds.
“They just wanted it more than us,” Plumlee said. “Boards isn’t a skill, it’s just something that you want to do. It’s really disturbing but that’s been the reality these last couple games.”
With five minutes left to play, the Orange (13-7, 3-4 in the ACC) led by nine points, putting Duke squarely in the danger zone. But a reverse dunk by Plumlee, a 3-pointer from freshman point guard Derryck Thornton and a tip-in by freshman Brandon Ingram brought the Blue Devils right back into the mix.
Roberson ended the Duke run by hitting a layup after drawing a foul, though he could not complete the 3-point play. Sophomore Grayson Allen answered with a quick layup of his own, and Plumlee followed suit with a reverse layup to bring the Orange lead within one with 30 seconds left to play.
“This game is tremendous,” Krzyzewski said. “It can be incredibly great to you and it can be incredibly cruel. Right now we’re going through the cruel part, but it’s a big picture thing for me all the time.”
The Blue Devils entered the game ranked second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, but it certainly did not look that way in the opening minutes of Monday's contest. Duke opened the game shooting 0-of-7 from the floor and did not put any points on the board until 5:19 into the contest. Syracuse jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in that time span before junior Matt Jones broke the silence for the Blue Devils by knocking down a jumper from beyond the arc.
Ingram got hot from there, putting up five points in a 40-second stretch to give Duke its first lead of the contest, but Syracuse answered back when former Blue Devil Michael Gbinije lobbed a pass to Roberson, who finished with an emphatic alley-oop.
Allen was held scoreless for much of the first half, but erupted for nine consecutive points to extend the Blue Devil lead to six just before halftime. But Orange marksman Trevor Cooney sank a 3-pointer to cut Duke's lead to three, and Allen's would-be buzzer-beater was waved off upon replay review, sending the Blue Devils into the locker room leading 29-26.
“The first-half we did a pretty good job defensively,” Allen said. “Offensively, we have to stay confident. Tonight was a night that shots didn’t fall early and I don’t know if guys became hesitant, but guys got hesitant, and we need to shoot the next shot like it’s going in.”
Duke started off the second half with all of the energy it lacked in opening the first. Plumlee and Allen dropped in layups to extend the Blue Devil lead, but once again, the Orange answered. Gbinije sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 33, but Jones responded with a 3-pointer of his own to re-establish control for Duke.
Syracuse made a decisive run with 13 minutes to go. A quick 8-0 spurt by Cooney and Richardson gave the Orange their first lead since 3:34 remaining in the first half.
“The last couple of games have been hard and obviously they haven’t come out the way we wanted them,” Plumlee said. “Looking back on it, these games are going to help us down the road. We’ve been in a lot of tough games and we just got to learn how to finish them now.”
Duke treks across the Triangle Saturday to take on N.C. State at 2 p.m., now looking to avoid a four-game skid.
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