After starting blazing hot with a 12-0 lead in the opening 3 minutes, Duke came back to Earth and Syracuse came back into the game. The Orange battled back to stay close with Duke leading at the half 49-48 thanks to a full-court buzzer beater from Elijah Hughes.
Player of the Half: Tyus Battle
Battle had a slow start to the game, but exploded midway through the first half, scoring 12 of the Orange’s first 17 points. Battle mainly did damage on the perimeter, knocking down several long jump shots including a fade away three in the corner as the shot clock wound down. He was Syracuse’s sole source of offense for much of the half and instrumental in bringing them back. Battle finished the first half with 20 points.
Tre Jones injured
After being instrumental to the Blue Devils’ strong start, coming up with four steals and two assists, Tre Jones was injured midway through the first half. He was upended by Syracuse's Frank Howard chasing for a loose ball and fell to the floor hard. The Apple Valley, Minn., native left the floor clutching his wrist and did not return for the rest of the first half due to an unspecified shoulder injury.
Duke stalls against the zone
The Orange played their famed 2-3 zone defense for the entirety of the first half and without their best outside shooter in Cam Reddish, who missed the game due to illness, Duke often looked hesitant. The Blue Devils were content to pass the ball around the perimeter and were ineffective from distance, shooting just 14.3 percent from the three-point line.
Duke reliant upon transition
The Blue Devils looked lost at times in the half-court offense, but were extremely effective on the fast break. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett both had highlight reel finishes following Syracuse turnovers and overall, Duke scored 11 fast break points in the first half, almost half of their overall offense.
Foul trouble for both teams
Fouls came fast and furious for both teams throughout the first half as the Blue Devils got into the bonus before the halfway mark of the half. Three Orange starters racked up three fouls in the first half including point guard Howard. Duke had foul trouble of its own to deal with as Javin DeLaurier picked up three fouls as well and Zion Williamson finished the half with two fouls.
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