Syracuse always has a decided advantage in the ACC in that they are always the outlier team, the uniqueness of their zone isn’t something many teams have to deal with much over the course of a season. It’s not easy to duplicate the Orange zone in practice and Duke looked iffy at times against it in their 97-88 win versus the Orange Saturday Night. One player that last showed he could be a zone buster was junior Alex O;Connell but it was hard to imagine O’Connell getting minutes considering the last 3 games the shooting guard had logged just 8 minutes combined. O’Connell scored 11 big points for the Blue Devils going 4-8 from the field, he also had 3 assists and 2 steals.
The Blue Devils spent most of the first half playing catchup as Syracuse was able to build a 7 point lead with 9 minutes left. Duke was able to tie the game 2 minutes later with a 7-0 run. On the strength of Vernon Carey Jr’s 12 points and 8 rebounds the Blue Devils secured a 4 point lead at the break. A quick spurt to start the second half via a 9-1 fun stretched the Duke lead to double-figures. The Blue Devils were able to build a 15 point lead off of an Alex O’Connell Dunk with 12 minutes left. Duke was never able to quite put the Orange away and they were able to cut the Duke lead to 5 at the 3 minute mark on a layup by Bourama Sidibe. The Syracuse press forced 4 Duke turnovers in the last 5 minutes of the game but Duke was able to convert from the free throw line to keep the Orange at arms length. The Blue Devils played most of the game in foul trouble with Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley both eventually fouling out for the Blue Devils. The Blue Devils converted down the stretch from the free throw line to seal the victory.
Vernon Carey Jr. paced the Blue Devils, scoring 26 points on 9-14 shooting and had a career-high 17 rebounds, giving him his
10th double-double of the season and ninth 20-10 performance. Sophomore Tre Jones added 17 points for the Blue Devils along with 6 assists – Jones went 10-10 from the free throw line – a career-best. Cassius Stanley scored 15 points and dished 5 assists and Matthew Hurt scored 12.
Shooting 67 percent on the season so far from the free throw line the Blue Devils shot 87.9 against Syracuse. The Blue Devils held the Orange to 23% shooting from beyond the arc and 38.6% from the field. Duke out rebounded the orange 41 to 35. The Orange forced the Blue Devils into 19 turnovers and turned those turnovers into 22 points.
DUKE HEAD COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI
Opening Statement: “It was a great game tonight. What a crowd. Jim’s (Boeheim) team is playing so well. They’re so explosive offensively with those three perimeter guys and (Marek) Dolezaj has to be the most improved player in the conference. He is such a good player.” “We beat a really good team tonight. Our kids had to hit pressure free throws and I think that was the key. Tre Jones was also the key. I know Vernon (Carey Jr.) had a great game with 26 points and 17 rebounds, but down the stretch Tre didn’t turn it over, he hit every free throw, beat traps and got the ball back.” “I’m really proud of our men. This has been a hell of a day for our team. This morning, my assistant coach, Jon Scheyer, had the scout of the game. He was the guy who was responsible and when we were going through things this morning, he had amazing pain and we took him to the ER and we thought that it might be a kidney stone and it wound up being appendicitis. So, he had an operation at 2:15 this afternoon. We want to thank all of the medical people here that worked alongside our medical people to get that done. Also, our director of basketball operations, Nolan Smith, didn’t make the trip because his five our six-month old little girl has been in ICU for four days and she finally got out today. So, thank goodness all of our players played. Usually you see about six or seven suits on the bench and there weren’t many tonight. So, I think our guys really wanted that win for John.”
What defensive strategy did you employ to try and limit Boeheim, Girard III and Hughes? “We tried to pick them up early so they wouldn’t be able to walk into their offense. That changes rhythm a little bit. I think they’re in real good shape, but it’s still wears down their legs. We also gave them an amazing amount of attention. The key thing was that we didn’t give up transition threes for most of the game. A lot of people don’t give Jim’s team credit for what a great transition offense they have. But running out of that zone, they can’t so easily. So, during the last couple of days, one of the things we practiced was getting back after hitting a shot. That’s why we didn’t press, so our guards could get back.” “We did a decent job on them. They scored over 80 and we scored over 90. So, I’m not sure that the defense for either side was fantastic.”
What impressed you the most about Vernon Carey Jr. today? “He really went after rebounds and in the zone, he made some moves against it that were spectacular. He was outstanding tonight and he played hungry. Not that he hasn’t before, but he played really hungry tonight and we needed it. This is a big win for us.”
What did you think of the atmosphere in the Dome tonight? “It was a great atmosphere. We’re proud to be in a game like this. Our Duke-Syracuse games have been classic games it’s always an honor to play and coach against Jim’s teams. You guys have been really lucky to have him for all these years. I didn’t know it was like the emperor was coming in when he enters the court. So, I came up to him and said, “Man, they love you.” That was so cool, and the crowd was great. Best of luck to them. We’re humble, but proud of the win tonight.”
SOPHOMORE GUARD TRE JONES
On if anything freshman Vernon Carey Jr. does surprises him: “I see it every day so nothing’s really new anymore, but he’s been so dominant down low. He’s killing them. They really didn’t have an answer for him tonight, with the 17 rebounds as well. He was just unstoppable – there’s no other way to put it. He came out, had a great game and like you said, he was carrying us offensively.”
On Carey not getting a lot of national recognition despite putting up big numbers: “It is crazy to me. I think he should be getting that attention, but it is what it is. We know what the main goal is around here. If we get that main goal, everything else will come. We’re not really worried about the attention he should be receiving because we know that if we keep taking care of our things on our end, everything else will be there.”
On if the team thought Carey was going to be as effective as he was: “We knew he was going to be able to dominate. They don’t really have a big to match up with him or even a couple that can match up with him. Our thing was to just try to have him seal guys down low, continue to bury guys and just try to find him and we were doing that throughout the entire game and it really paid off.”
FRESHMAN CENTER VERNON CAREY JR.
On how Duke was able to build on its lead in the second half: “Just knocking down free throws towards the stretch. Just catching and facing and seeing what’s open, really. We didn’t rush anything when they started to press us, so I feel like that helped us a lot – just not rushing it [and] just being patient.”
On if he knew that he could use his size to his advantage coming into the game: “Yeah, just using my strength, really, and just being strong in the post with the Syracuse front court.”
On how Duke’s forwards were able to still be aggressive while being in foul trouble: “Coach just told us to just wall up when we had the two fouls. He just told us to try not to foul, just play without fouling – that’s what he told us. We just tried our best and I feel like we did a good job of that.”
FRESHMAN GUARD CASSIUS STANLEY On what the mindset when Syracuse cut the lead to five late in the game: “Just to win the game, really. We love playing road games because of that kind of stuff. We’re playing in the [Carrier] Dome in front of 30,000-plus people, we’re playing in the Brotherhood jerseys against an exotic zone like that – we’ve got to win, regardless. We’ve got to do what we have to do and I think that’s what I had to do.”
On if Syracuse’s zone gave them trouble late in the game: “I think it was more of their trap than the zone, really. The trap threw us off a little bit, but we handled it with poise, I feel like. I feel like we only had one turnover and that was me committing an offensive foul. I was trying to hold somebody off. But, I think we did really well against the trap. We hit our men and we hit our free throws. I think we were 29-for-33, so that’s ridiculous, especially for us because we’ve been struggling at the line.”
On how important this win is: “It’s huge. Every win in the ACC is huge. There’s no one win that’s greater than the other, but especially just because we’re missing two coaches right now, that’s definitely huge to win this game.”
SYRACUSE HEAD COACH JIM BOEHEIM
Opening Statement: “(Vernon) Carey’s really good, he’s big and strong down there, the other big guy (Javin) DeLaurier hurt us too. We gave up 40 points down there. It’s a problem, it has been all year. I thought we fought hard, we missed three’s early, we needed to make some. I thought we had some pretty good looks but we’ve got to make some of those to compete. Duke’s very good, they’re really good, they’ve got a great point guard, and a tremendous group of players, and the big kid is really good, he’s got great hands, he’s really tough down there. We battled back, we did everything we could to try to compete back in there but we had a little gap there where they got the lead and we just couldn’t overcome that.”
Are you happy how your team is playing physically and standing up to that: “I think we’re getting better. It’s a physical game both ways. We lost 6 boards, won the turnover battle, +9. I think we’re hanging in there for the physical strength that we have. Obviously that’s not a strength of ours but down low we just have trouble with the big guys like that. He’s very good and we’re not able to play a guy like that.”
What did you see from Marek (Dolezaj) setting a career high tonight? “He’s playing great. He stays out of foul trouble he’s doing a lot of things. He’s passing and he’s driving. He’s a really good player. For us to win Elijah has got to shoot better, from the three, and he had a good night but he’s got to make some of those. Buddy’s got to make a couple more. Joe’s got to make a couple more. We have to score a lot of points. Duke’s going to score points against us and we can’t stop them so we’re going to have to score a lot of points to beat them. They’re a very good team, very good offensive team. They are top 10 for a reason. They have a very good team, they’re big, they’ve got a lot of size down there.”
Did they start to find a way to deny Buddy the ball? “Everyone’s going to over play him. He’s a shooter, he’s getting his own shot though. He’s getting it on the floor and getting his own shot. Tonight, he missed a couple that he can make but he’s learning. Joe and (Buddy) are learning. They’re learning the game, they are both having tremendous years but they’re learning the game. There’s so many things about (Quincy) that defensively he’s giving up things that we just can’t give up. People don’t see that but he just doesn’t play his position and offensively, he’s good. He can get up and lay it in but he can’t do it against these guys. He’s got to learn how to play against bigger guys. The good teams have bigger guys. And he’s got to learn as Marek has to use his body, use pump fakes and makes moves. Quincy’s never had to do that. He just jumps up and layed it in against a bunch of 6’2 guys. Well he’s playing against grown men now, and he’s got to learn how to play against them, and it take time. He’s trying, he’s doing everything that he can do to try to get there, but he’s just not ready yet to play against guys like this. Every game that he’s played a lot of minutes, he’s either fouled out of or close within 20 minutes. He’s learning the game, but he’s a work in progress and its going to take time.”
• Mike Krzyzewski is in his 40th season as Duke’s head coach, and his record is now 1,077-288 at Duke, and 1,150-347 overall in this, his 45th season overall.
• The game marked the 16th meeting between Duke and Syracuse, with Duke leading the series 10-6, including 3-2 in road games. Duke has won three straight in the series.
• The announced attendance for the game was 31,458, making it the highest-attended college basketball game this season.
• Duke’s 97 points were its most in an ACC game since beating Florida State, 100-93, on Dec. 30, 2017. It marked Duke’s most points in an ACC road game since a 98-88 win at Clemson on Feb. 2, 2002.
• The 97 points were the most allowed by Syracuse in a game at the Carrier Dome since a 107-100 loss to Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 2007.
• The Blue Devils shot 6-of-17 (.353) from beyond the arc, marking the 1,080th consecutive game they have connected on at least one three-pointer, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation (UNLV – 1,092 games).
• Duke had five players score in double figures for the fifth different time this season. It was also the 12th game in which eight or more Blue Devils recorded at least one point and one rebound.
• Duke was 29-of-33 (.879) at the free throw, marking its most made free throws in a game this season.
• Duke shot .574 from the field, marking its second-highest shooting percentage in ACC play this season (.597 at Miami on Jan. 4, 2020)
• Duke held the Orange to 6-of-26 shooting (.231) from three-point range. The Blue Devils have now held their opponent to under 30 percent from deep in 10 games this season.
• Syracuse’s six made three-pointers were its second-fewest in a game this season (5 vs. Virginia and Pittsburgh).
• Freshman Vernon Carey Jr. scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and brought in a career-high 17 rebounds, giving him his 10th double-double of the season and ninth 20-10 performance. All 10 of his double-doubles have been 15-10 games.
• Sophomore Tre Jones had 17 points and six assists, marking his 13th game with 10+ points and 5+ assists this season.
• Jones also went a career-best 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
• Freshman Cassius Stanley dished out a career-high five assists to go along with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
• OF Stanley’s 15 points, 13 came in the second half.
• In his first game since January 4 (hand), freshman Wendell Moore Jr. scored five points and added three assists.
• Junior Alex O’Connell reached double figures in scoring for the fourth time this season, netting 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting. O’Connell also tied a career high with three assists.
• Duke continues its ACC road swing on Tuesday, February 4, when the Blue Devils take on Boston College at Conte Forum at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.