After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone takes a deeper look at AJ Griffin's hot shooting and the rest of the Blue Devils' blowout win against Syracuse:
One player: AJ Griffin
In his fourth start of the season, Griffin put on yet another premier showing, registering his eighth double-digit scoring performance of the season. The 6-foot-6 forward made the most of every one of his 30 minutes Saturday, recording a block, steal, six rebounds and 15 points on the offensive end in the victory. In each successive game, it grows more evident that Griffin is one of the most critical players on the court for Duke. Not only can he play restrictive defense and set effective picks, but he also is one of the sharpest shooters on this Blue Devil squad. The Ossining, N.Y., native and former No. 18 overall recruit is versatile and showed his ability on both ends of the court in Duke's win Saturday against the Orange.
Duke's win against the Orange was an apparent group effort, with no single player clearly overtaking their teammates on the stat sheet. Griffin, however, played one of his best games, and his efforts were arguably the cleanest of any player on the Duke roster. In Saturday’s matchup, he excelled on both sides of the ball, but most notably with his shooting skills. All of Griffin's points came from downtown, as the freshman drained 5-of-9 treys on the day to help his teammates to 14 made 3-pointers, a season-high in conference play. With his well-orchestrated play from beyond the arc allowing him to avoid the notorious Syracuse zone defense, Griffin also avoided picking up any personal fouls on either end of the court, finishing the day with only a single turnover.
One word: Restrictive
There were many storylines in Saturday’s match—Jim Boeheim versus Mike Krzyzewski and Paolo Banchero registering his fourth double-double of the season, to name a few—but the most important storyline of the day was the final score. Duke finished the match with a 79-59 victory against the Orange, and that came after the Blue Devils rested starters down the stretch and allowed the Orange to tighten the score in the final five minutes. Syracuse finished the game shooting 35.3% from the field and a mere 17.2% from beyond the arc. Duke itself held a 47.6% clip from the field and shot 37.8% from downtown. So what led to this? The answer is the Blue Devils’ restrictive ability.
What led to Syracuse’s lack of efficiency was the success that the Blue Devils had on defense, effectively limiting the Orange’s shot-taking ability. Yes, Syracuse had less fouls and turnovers than Duke, but it also was not as efficient as it could have been, shooting just 6-of-12 from the charity stripe and often losing opportunities on the backboards, finishing with 35 rebounds to Duke's 45. Along with that, Duke capitalized on the Orange’s mistakes, registering 20 points off of the opposition’s 10 turnovers, whereas Syracuse only managed 13 points off of Duke’s 15 turnovers.
One stat: 15 points each from four Blue Devils
Saturday's game marks the first contest for Duke this season in which no single player led the team in scoring. Inside Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, four Blue Devils assisted this effort with 15 points each and with Joey Baker following the quartet with 11 points of his own on the day.
Griffin, who started the game with a bang with a first-minute 3-pointer, joined center Mark Williams and fellow forwards Wendell Moore Jr. and Banchero in the 15-point club to finish the match with a combined 60 points, besting Syracuse's 59-point total. The four starters also succeeded in other areas beyond scoring, with Griffin putting together a shining 3-point performance, Banchero registering a 13-rebound double-double, Williams shooting well from both the field and the stripe and Moore dotting eight assists on the day. With another collective showing against Syracuse, the team is well on its way to the level of success that it saw toward the start of the season.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.