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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half of ACC tournament quarterfinals against Syracuse

Duke trails at the break, but it was not due to the play of Wendell Moore Jr.
Duke trails at the break, but it was not due to the play of Wendell Moore Jr.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Welcome to Championship Week. Duke, holding the top seed in the ACC tournament, opens the postseason with ninth-seeded Syracuse in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. In the third meeting of the year between these two programs and two iconic coaches, Duke got going early but could not put it away, as the Blue Devils trail 40-36 going into the locker room.

Pro-Duke crowd

Do Duke fans travel well or what? It's not nearly as close to Durham as the Greensboro Coliseum, but the Big Apple certainly has its fair share of alumni. Barclays Center is not quite full, especially when you take a look into the nosebleeds, but the atmosphere for a nooner is still worthy of the ACC’s premier event. 

The Duke faithful gave head coach Mike Krzyzewski a roaring ovation when he made his way onto the floor during warmups, and so far, there is no shortage of energy from the Blue Devil and Orange contingents. Per usual, this program and tournament moves the needle.

No Buddy, no problem?

The one-game suspension of Syracuse wing Buddy Boeheim, stemming from the senior hitting Florida State’s Wyatt Wilkes during the 96-57 Orange victory Wednesday, stripped Syracuse of its premier offensive threat. Buddy Boeheim, who led the conference in scoring during the regular season, is a terrific on catch-and-shoot threes and can put in work off the bounce.

Without Buddy Boeheim, the Orange relied on Joe Girard III, Cole Swidder—who racked up 28 points Wednesday—and his brother Jimmy Boeheim to carry the load. Girard was the one who kept the Orange in it, drawing a pair of fouls on 3-point attempts and going for 18 points in the opening period. 

Griffin's struggles continue

Saturday was a rough outing for the New York native, as Griffin went just 2-of-5 from the field in Duke’s 13-point loss to North Carolina. Back in his home state, and facing a zone look that he has averaged 17.5 points on 57.9% from distance, the freshman figured to get back on track.

But that just was not the case in the first half. Griffin, in 13 minutes, only took two shots and struggled with Symir Torrence defensively. If Duke is to pull away, it might need the sharpshooting forward, who was just named to the All-ACC Honorable Mention team, to go on a mini-run of his own.

Game of zones

On the opening possession of the afternoon, Wendell Moore Jr. got into the lane with ease, but clanked a fall-away jumper. Despite that miss, it was an omen of what was to come for the Blue Devils at that end. While the Syracuse 2-3 is tough to prepare for on short notice, Duke had enough time to scout the Orange and Florida State in the days leading up to the quarterfinals.

Precise ball movement, ideal spacing and multiple offensive rebounds from Mark Williams allowed Duke to light it up early. Going into the under-16 timeout, the Blue Devils led 14-6 on the back of four triples. 

Player of the Half: Wendell Moore Jr. 

The Charlotte native controlled the pace for the Blue Devils throughout the first 20 minutes. He went just 3-for-9 from downtown, but nearly all of those looks were wide open—sometimes, they just don’t fall. Late in the half, Moore attacked the rim with authority, finishing on a fast break and a flash to the rim as Duke was cold from distance. He was not perfect, but Moore led the Blue Devils with 13 points and did not log a turnover.

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.


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