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Tuesday, Jan 15, 2019 at 1:35 am

Syracuse Shocks the Nation, Upsets No. 1 Duke on the Road

By Matthew Wieselthier

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

DURHAM, N.C. — Just two minutes into the contest between Syracuse and No. 1 Duke, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim rose from his seat but glared at the ground, appearing defeated. He called timeout as his team was down 11-0 against the top team in the country.

“I didn’t say a word to them,” Boeheim said.  “I told them that everybody had them picked as 17-point underdogs and if that’s what you think you are then go out and play that way.  They played that way for the first few minutes.”

That number was posted all over the SU locker room as they looked to recover from a 14-point loss to Georgia Tech just two days prior.

“‘That’s how much people respect you right now,’” Tyus Battle remembered Boeheim saying after the loss to Georgia Tech.

Battle in particular seemed inspired, dropping a season-high 32 points after that timeout to lead the Orange (12-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) to a 95-91 overtime victory over the Blue Devils (14-2, 3-1 ACC) in one of the biggest upsets of the 2018-19 season.

After falling behind 14-2, Battled scored 11 points as part of a 15-4 run to pull Syracuse within one. After that, the game was tightly contested, due in part to the absences on the Blue Devils side.  The No. 3 recruit in the country, Cam Reddish, sat with flu-like symptoms and just over five minutes into the game, freshman point guard Tre Jones injured his shoulder diving for a loose ball. The loss of Jones disrupted the Blue Devils’ offensive rhythm. Plus, Syracuse found its stroke, hitting 11 three-pointers, a new season-high, and the Orange encountered a bit of luck. With just 2.7 seconds left in the first half, Elijah Hughes drilled a 75-foot prayer that left the Cameron Crazies silent.

“I don’t know, I just threw it up and it just happened to go in,” Hughes said with a chuckle.

After nearing the brink of a potential blowout, the Orange fought back to close the half down 49-48, led by 20 points from Battle, and the second half followed the same pace, every time Duke posted a run, Syracuse answered.

Then with three minutes left in the contest, Paschal Chukwu, who has struggled on offense all season, grabbed an offensive board and immediately put the ball back up off the glass to give the Orange their first lead of the day at 81-80, forcing Duke to call timeout.

The two teams went back and forth, trading buckets and free throws over the last couple of minutes until Battle put up an 18-footer, fading away with a hand in his face, and sunk it to give Syracuse an 85-84 lead with a minute to go. But the Orange fouled Duke star Zion Williamson, who sank one free throw to tie the game at 85. Neither side could break the tie in the final seconds, as the game headed to overtime, which proved an all Orange affair as Syracuse finally put their foot down on this game.  The opening tip found its way to Elijah Hughes, who immediately placed in a layup.

Paschal Chukwu also played a key role in the late game, with two free throws and a game sealing rebound with under ten seconds to go on his way to a career-high 18 rebounds.

“After I got taken out, Coach Red [Adrian Autry] told me, ‘It doesn’t really matter if you start or not, you just got to keep playing,’” Chukwu said.  “Coach told me that their bigs are going to try and block everything, so just go down and grab every rebound, and I was fortunate enough to go and grab a bunch of them.”

“He finally caught some under our basket instead of dribbling it, he put it back up which is what we’ve been teaching him for years,” said Boeheim of his 7’2 center. “I guess I’m a bad teacher or he’s a slow learner, one or the other, but he just caught it and put it back up.”

Now the Orange need to bring that road magic back home to the Carrier Dome.  The three biggest wins this season have come outside of the Salt City: at Ohio State, at Notre Dame and now at Duke.

They next host a Pittsburgh squad that is much different than last year when they did not win a single ACC game.  Instead, the Panthers will also be riding a high after a 13-point upset win over Florida State.

More performances like the one that Syracuse put on in Durham though, and they may not be on that NCAA Tournament bubble much longer.

mwieselthier@citrustv.net | @mcwiesel