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Beyond the arc: Duke picks up another ugly win against Syracuse

Grayson Allen shot just 3-of-14 from long distance in Duke's win.
Grayson Allen shot just 3-of-14 from long distance in Duke's win.

It wasn't as pretty as Duke's first two wins in the NCAA tournament, but the Blue Devils managed to squeak by Syracuse 69-65 to advance to the Elite Eight. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats from the win and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways

1. Duke stays mentally strong down the stretch

Before Friday, the Blue Devils hadn't won a game by five points or fewer since November in the PK80 Invitational, losing six such games in a row. But they finally made the key plays to finish when it mattered, as Gary Trent Jr. sank a runner in the paint with less than a minute to go and then two free throws with seven seconds left to seal the victory.

2. Grayson Allen is Duke's most comfortable ball-handler

Trevon Duval had a setback after an impressive pair of performances last weekend, only managing two points and three turnovers against the Orange. Allen became the Blue Devils' primary ball-handler for much of the game and had eight assists with just one giveaway, delivering several accurate lobs to Marvin Bagley III for dunks.

3. Survive and advance

Duke certainly didn't play anywhere near as well as it did last week in a 25-point blowout of Rhode Island, shooting very poorly from the field and getting outrebounded in the first half. But the way the Blue Devils won doesn't matter in the NCAA tournament, and they will live to see another day.

Three key stats

1. Duke shoots 5-of-26 from beyond the arc

Neither Allen nor Gary Trent Jr. had efficient nights at all against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, with Allen launching 14 3-pointers—including many from several feet behind the line—and only making three. The Blue Devils only shot 2-of-18 from long distance after the break, but still managed to emerge victorious.

2. Duke grabs 10 second-half offensive rebounds

A lot of those missed triples in the second half were mitigated by the Blue Devils' many offensive rebounds, including six from Bagley. Duke scored 17 second-chance points, four more than the Orange—which proved to be the final margin of the game.

3. The Blue Devils only commit seven turnovers

For the most part, Duke stayed disciplined against the Orange's zone, working the ball carefully into the middle or behind the zone to a big man on the baseline. The Blue Devils' seven giveaways were their fewest in a game since Jan. 10 at Pittsburgh.

Looking forward

After all of Duke's ups and downs this year, the Blue Devils are one of the last eight teams remaining in the NCAA tournament, just one win from a berth in the Final Four in San Antonio. To get there, Duke will have to beat the top seed in the Midwest, a veteran Kansas squad that will be playing a virtual home game in Omaha, Neb., just a three-hour drive from campus.


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