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Saturday, Mar 24, 2018 at 2:23 am

Syracuse’s Season Ends in Sweet 16

By Christian De Guzman

OMAHA, N.E. – Syracuse (23-14) almost pulled off a miracle once again.

The Orange found itself down by as much as nine points in the second half. SU came within two points, but couldn’t complete the comeback as Duke (29-7) held on for a 69-65 victory in the Sweet 16.

“Things weren’t going our way for a long time, but they just kept coming back,” said Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “We were better offensively, just not quite good enough.”

Syracuse score its most points in the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The Orange couldn’t stop fouling Duke. Syracuse racked up fouls quickly through the game, which sent Duke to the free throw line often. The Blue Devils went 20-28 from the charity stripe.

SU also struggled to hold onto the ball against the Blue Devils. The Orange turned the ball over 16 times – 12 of them coming in the first half. The turnovers allowed Duke to take a seven-point lead heading into halftime.

“The first-half turnovers kind of hurt us,” said Tyus Battle.

Marvin Bagley III led all scorers with 22 points. He set a new single season record for Duke for most points by a freshman during the game. Bagley found himself open on the post for alley-oops and showcased his strength underneath the basket.

Despite Bagley’s good performance, the Syracuse defense still held strong for the majority of the game in the half-court set. The Orange limited the Blue Devils to a 39.3 field goal percentage – the second lowest mark of the Duke season.

However, Duke won the game through free throws and turnovers. The Blue Devils scored 18 points off Syracuse’s turnovers and made nine more free throws than the Orange.

Alas, the 2017-18 season for Syracuse comes to an end as the Orange vastly exceeded expectations. After being selected as the last team in the NCAA Tournament, few could’ve predicted that SU would go as deep into the postseason as it did.

“I’ve never been any more proud of a team for what they’ve done in this last ten days,” said Boeheim. “The guys deserve an awful lot of credit.”

The status of Battle and Oshae Brissett are in question heading into next season. Both could leave Syracuse early for the NBA. However, should both players stay, next season’s Syracuse team looks very strong. More depth comes to the squad in the form of three recruits in the class of 2018 – including five-star recruit Darius Bazely.

There’s no doubt that the future of the Orange is very bright. But the present Syracuse team has been fun to follow as the squad defied all expectations.