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Sunday, Feb 27, 2022 at 12:51 pm

Syracuse Men’s Basketball Can’t Handle Duke At Home

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski are two of college basketball’s most successful and most iconic coaches. Their legacies will stand the test of time long after they’re gone. For the final time on Saturday, at least in the regular season, the two longtime friends took the court as opponents leading Syracuse (15-14, 9-9 ACC) and Duke (25-4, 15-3 ACC) respectively.

The game was never close with the Blue Devils winning 97-72 inside the Dome. Similar to the first time these two teams played this season, the Orange were just outmatched from the start as Duke got out to a 14-0 lead in the first half.

Coach K’s team was led by a trio of potential NBA draftees in Mark Williams (28 points, 12 rebounds), Paolo Banchero (21 points, 9 assists) and AJ Griffin (20 points, 6-10 from 3pt range). Things went much deeper than those three. There was a clear scheme to break Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, they were tenacious on the glass winning the rebounding battle 38-25 which saw Duke grab 17 offensive rebounds, and they shot the lights out of the basketball from beyond the arc, making 15-32.

Coach Boeheim’s team was dealt an unfortunate hand as guard Symir Torrence left the game early after taking a hit to the end that required him to get stitches. Cole Swider found himself in foul trouble early and really could not get much going in just 14 minutes. As Boeheim would say postgame, Duke is on a different level.

“This was defensively from the beginning, we were never into what we needed to do defensively,” Boeheim said. “Duke is different. I think Notre Dame is really good and they went to Notre Dame and had them down 30… They’re just better, more physical. If Buddy hadn’t made some really hard shots early, it would have been 30-2… We can’t handle Duke, it’s pretty simple.”

The Orange bench saw a significant level of playing time as well in this one with some bright spots. Particularly from freshman Benny Williams, who in 30 minutes scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, all career highs. Bourama Sidibe saw 26 minutes of action. Even John Bol Ajak had a chance to shine in 12 minutes. For reference, starting center Frank Anselem also played 12 minutes. Coach Boeheim had his thoughts on all of these.

“[Benny] actually had a nice practice yesterday,” said Boeheim. “I thought tonight we got him in the back door early and he made his jumper. He has struggled shooting, he has been shooting a little better in practice. I think he could be a good player. He’s got to learn how to play the system and he has to play harder and he’s got to rebound. He can do that but it has just not happened this year.”

At the end of the day however, the game took a back seat to Coach Boeheim and Coach K. Two long time friends who most likely will never coach against one another ever again. Postgame, both had much praise for the other.

“It is a different world today,” said Boeheim. “There have been a lot of great coaches but there has been no one to come close to what Mike has done. He has given everything to the game and helped make the game what it is today without any question. I am just happy we are good friends.”

“I really think about Jim and his program and the excellence they have had in the almost five decades that he has been here,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean he has been a national champion, he has knocked on the door a couple more times. This is one of those iconic programs. Syracuse. I think ours is too. So when you bring both of them together in this setting, it is spectacular for college basketball.”

For Syracuse, they have now dropped their last two games, and will need to hit the reset button quickly as they have a tough test in their next game on Monday when they take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill.