Monday was not a fun night to be a Duke fan. The Blue Devils bolted out to a 12-0 advantage, but 41 minutes and one horrifying injury later the scoreboard showed the Orange on top, 95-91, in an overtime thriller. The Blue Zone breaks down three key takeaways, three key stats and looks forward for the Duke squad:
Three key takeaways:
1. Defense struggles without Tre
The horrors started just six minutes into the contest when Syracuse guard Frank Howard dove into Tre Jones for a loose ball, forcing the freshman guard to miss the remainder of the game. Not only did that dive take out Duke’s best ball handler and facilitator, it also eliminated the Blue Devils’ best defender. Jones’ ball pressure is a huge part of the team’s defensive scheme, and without him Duke pretty much fell apart. Orange guard Tyus Battle led the way with 32 points, carrying Syracuse to the major upset.
2. Outside stroke exposed by Syracuse zone
Everyone knew going into this matchup that Duke’s outside shot would be tested against Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim’s famous 3-2 zone. The Blue Devils completely and utterly failed that test. The team had a promising showing against Florida State, hitting 45.8 percent of its shots from deep, but went ice cold back in Cameron, knocking down only nine of 43 three-point attempts. Duke needs to prove it can consistently hit shots from deep if the team truly hopes to be a national title contender.
3. Jack White has miserable shooting night in first career start
There has been talk for some time now that junior captain Jack White should replace Cam Reddish in Duke’s starting lineup. And after Reddish was ruled out just prior to game time due to sickness, the Australian finally got his first opportunity to prove that theory right. He did not, however, missing all 10 of his shots from downtown and recording only six rebounds in 42 minutes. White is going to be an instrumental part of this year’s squad whether he’s with the starting five or not, so he better prove this performance was the exception rather than the norm.
Three key stats:
While Syracuse scored the historic victory, Zion Williamson had himself a historic night, dropping 35 points in addition to 10 rebounds and four blocks. Those 35 points are the most by a freshman in Duke history, topping the previous mark of 34 belonging to JJ Redick and Marvin Bagley III.
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R.J. Barrett has received a lot of criticism this season regarding his efficiency, and his performance Monday did not do anything to silence those critics. The Mississauga, Ont. native nearly posted a triple-double with 23 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists but did so on 8-of-30 shooting from the field. While Barrett is the type of player that works best when given the green light, he’s going to need to work on his shot selection to avoid nights like this in the future.
Over the past two seasons, Duke has managed to average only a single loss per season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Following Monday’s defeat, the Blue Devils have already matched that mark in only their second home conference matchup. And with Virginia coming into town this Saturday, that one-loss streak isn’t looking too promising.
Things only got worse even after Syracuse pulled out the win in overtime: Jones’ injury was deemed an AC joint separation and the star point guard will be out indefinitely, possibly even months. That is not good news for the Blue Devils, who rely on the brother of former Duke point guard Tyus Jones to lead both the offense and the defense. Nevertheless, the team will still have possibly three of the top five picks in next year’s NBA Draft on the court, so its season and hopes for a national title are far from over. The Blue Devils have a gargantuan test this Saturday evening, however, facing off against the No. 4 and undefeated Cavaliers in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season.