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Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 11:55 pm

Men’s Basketball Struggles With Duke’s Post Threats in Road Defeat

By Nick Dugan

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke’s star freshman Marvin Bagley III had sat out the team’s previous four games due to a knee injury. Facing a team without the towering forward allowed some Orange fans to believe in a possible upset in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night.

Those thoughts were just a distant memory by the time Bagley threw down a vicious two-handed dunk to close out the first half. Syracuse (18-11, 7-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) held a high-powered Duke (24-5, 12-4 ACC) offense to just 27 first half points.

But, Bagley still managed to score 14 points in the first frame. That domination continued into the second half, as he and Wendell Carter Jr. combined for 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 60-44 victory.

“I thought they were able to get some stuff in low that we can’t get,” Jim Boeheim said. “I thought that was really the difference in the game.”

And Boeheim knows that Bagley was a main factor of that success.

“Obviously they’re good without him, but I’d rather have Bagley not be here tonight,” he admitted. “He’s very, very good down in that low area post. We really couldn’t do much with him.”

Still, Duke entered the night averaging over 87 points per game. Holding them to 27 points in the opening 20 minutes was no doubt a result of good defense. However, Syracuse struggled, as it has, putting the ball through the hoop. The Orange connected on just eight filed goals in the first half and finished the game shooting just 31.5 percent from the floor.

Oshae Brissett credited the Blue Devils’ approach to the team’s biggest scoring threats.

“The two forwards played really high up,” Brissett said. “… We tried to get the ball closer to the three-point line so we could actually do something… That was just their game plan, to take away me and Tyus on the wings.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils gave Syracuse a taste of its own medicine, running an effective 2-3 zone all night.

“I don’t think Coach K should really be allowed to play zone,” Boeheim joked. “I’m surprised he would even do that…”

“They did a great job of elevating their forwards and their guards to kind of disrupt our looks on the perimeter,” Frank Howard said. “Whether it’s just a simple pass or the screens, they kind of jumped those.”

Not only did it create tougher shots for SU, it forced them into 17 turnovers that resulted in ten Duke points. Those 17 turnovers also matched Syracuse’s number of made field goals.

“We made some really bad turnovers in transition … in the middle of the court,” Boeheim said. “Just careless turnovers that you can’t make.”

All eyes will be on these final two games for Syracuse, as another loss could prove to be a real blow to their tournament resume.

“They played a good game tonight, but at the end of the day we felt like we lost this game,” Howard said. “We got opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on them…”

This was an opportunity to make a statement win. Syracuse didn’t capitalize.