After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone breaks down a dominant Duke win at Syracuse and a behemoth game from Mark Williams:
One player: Mark Williams
Mark Williams owned the Orange. The center put up a massive performance, scoring 28 points and shooting 78.6% from the field. It was Williams' career-high point total and his first game with over 20 on the season. Williams has excelled all season, being a constant offensive presence in the paint and one of Duke’s most consistent players.
What was most impressive from this particular showing, however, was his rebounding. Williams picked up 12 boards, eight of which were on the offensive side. That total marks his seventh double-double of the season, but it more importantly created second-chance opportunities and prolonged the Blue Devil’s offensive possessions.
One stat: 15-for-32 3-pointers
Duke shot the lights out in the Carrier Dome, making an impressive 53.8% from the field. Their 15 made 3-pointers gave the Blue Devils the offensive boost that had been lacking against Virginia. The Blue Devils came out firing, scoring a whopping 51 first-half points after connecting on 10 of their total 15 threes.
As per usual, AJ Griffin was Duke’s leading shooter from the arc. He made six of his 10 attempts and tallied 20 points, his fourth time doing so this season. Jeremy Roach sunk two, while Wendell Moore Jr., Trevor Keels and Jaylen Blakes all contributed a trey of their own. An unexpected factor from deep was Paolo Banchero. The freshman, who tends to make his living inside the arc, made four of his seven attempts as he had a 21-point day himself.
One word: Timing
Duke’s regular season, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final one, is coming to a close. The Blue Devils have a road matchup against Pittsburgh and the final home game against North Carolina to close out coach Krzyzewski’s time in Cameron. With postseason play incoming, Duke has needed to find their groove and put up impressive performances to solidify their top standing in the ACC and boost their seeding in the NCAA tournament.
This Syracuse game was exactly what they needed. Each player used their individual strengths to improve the team’s overall performance. Whether it be the hot shooting day, the 26 assists that preceded many of those made shots or the 38 rebounds to the Orange’s 25, Duke was firing on all cylinders. If it can carry this momentum, and level of execution, through the postseason, the Blue Devils will be hard to stop over the coming weeks.
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Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.