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One word for Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse: Rejuvenating

Freshman center Mark Williams was stellar Monday, as his paint presence was on display from the opening tip.
Freshman center Mark Williams was stellar Monday, as his paint presence was on display from the opening tip.

The Blue Zone recaps Duke's impressive win over Syracuse Monday in as brief a manner as we can—in one word:

One word: Rejuvenating

The Blue Devils had been hot entering Monday’s domination of the Orange, earning their third straight victory in a thriller with then-No. 7 Virginia, 66-65. Now firmly back in the postseason discussion, it remained to be seen whether or not Duke could sustain its high level of play, a feat it has struggled to make reality despite sporadic glimpses of greatness throughout the season.

The answer, quite simply, was yes, as the Blue Devils left little doubt from the opening tipoff as to who would come out on top, making this the sort of game that Syracuse fans likely turned off before halftime. After seeming dead in the water and in desperate need of a spark only weeks ago, the Blue Devils are suddenly receiving massive contributions from up and down the lineup on any given night, with the freshman trio of Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward and Mark Williams garnering the spotlight on Monday night. Add this to the fact that Matthew Hurt continues to look like a bona fide star night in and night out, and this Duke team appears lively and entirely rejuvenated just in time for the stretch run.

While it is best not to put too much stock into a win over a mid-tier team such as the Orange, it is hard not to be excited about Duke’s resurgence after another stellar outing Monday night. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has his team brimming with life, and will hope to keep it up as they look to avenge last month’s loss to Louisville come Saturday. 

One stat: 13-of-29 from 3-point range

As in any clash with Syracuse’s trademark zone defense, the Blue Devils needed to connect on outside shots Monday, and they wasted no time in doing just that. Beginning with a trio of early triples from Wendell Moore Jr., Roach and Steward, the hoop was an ocean for Duke in the first half, as they sank a mind-boggling ten 3-pointers before the buzzer at a sparkling 55% clip.

The 3-point shooting leveled off in the second half as the intensity cooled, but all in all Duke had five players connect from deep, with four making two or more and the freshman backcourt of Roach and Steward combining for eight all by themselves. Duke’s wealth of reliable shooters from beyond the arc simply overwhelmed the Orange in the victory, which bodes well for the Blue Devils as they look to continue their recent offensive success down the stretch. 

One player: Mark Williams

While Duke’s perimeter attack was superb all night, it was freshman center Mark Williams who truly stole the show against the Orange, posting his first double-double with career highs of 18 points and 11 rebounds, adding two blocks to his stellar 9-of-11 shooting night. 

Williams exposed Syracuse’s lack of a true center early on, throwing down a lob from Steward on the game’s opening play for his first points. Too much for Syracuse veteran Marek Dolezaj down low, Williams was impressive on the offensive glass and in transition, too, finishing a highlight reel half-court lob from Jordan Goldwire in the first half. The 7-footer’s dominance in the paint and surprising vision passing out of the post helped the Blue Devils establish a nearly unstoppable inside-out attack through the evening. Williams was a big reason that Monday night’s win never felt like much of a fair fight.

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