The Blue Devils under Coach K has generally handled the vaunted 2-3 zone of Syracuse well. Today was no different. Heading into Saturday Duke had taken 7 of the last 10 from the Orange and in this game the Blue Devils would be without starting guard Trevor Keels. Keels is out with calf injury he suffered in the overtime loss to Florida State. It turns out the Blue Devils wouldn’t need Keels in this game. Duke was crips in their passing for the most part and hit early and often from beyond the arc, picking apart the zone with relative ease.
Duke moved the ball well against the zone hitting 7-15 shots from beyond the arc in the first half including 4-6 from AJ Griffin. In that half the Blue Devils assisted on 13 of their 13 makes and added 13 points off of turnovers for a 36-22 lead what very well could have been over 20 but 10 first half turnovers leading to 7 Syracuse points kept the game within reach.
The second half say Syracuse shoot the ball poorly and it also saw the Blue Devils pour it on offensively including a 32-15 run in a 10 minute span to give Duke the lead by 30. The Orange never really threatened in this game and Duke never really let off the gas, aggressively attacking the zone from beyond the arc and when those shots weren’t available finding room in the paint.
The Blue Devils dropped a 4 piece of 15 point scorers that included Wendell Moore Jr who added 8 assists and 6 rebounds to his totals. Paolo Banchero also had 15 and added 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Mark Williams‘ 15 came with 7 rebounds and AJ Griffin’s 15 points came on 5-10 shooting, including 5-9 from beyond the arc, Griffin also added 6 rebounds. Senior Joey Baker added a double figure effort on 3-6 from beyond the arc, scoring 11 points.
The young Blue Devils are finding out that when you play lockdown defense and out-rebound your opponent you can have a little more margin for error – overcoming their own 15 turnovers and giving up 15 offensive rebounds. Duke held the Orange to 17.2% shooting from beyond the arc and 35% overall, holding the two starting guards for Cuse (Girard and Boeheim) to 7-24 shooting and 3-13 from three-point range. The Blue Devils shot 48% from the field and 38% from 3 and out-rebounded Syracuse 45-35. Turnovers were still an issue for the Blue Devils who coughed it up 15 times but it wasn’t a central issue for them with such a commanding lead for most the game.
DUKE HEAD COACH MIKE KRZYZEWSKI
“We played really well and we’re getting better. It’s been a tough time since Christmas with a whole bunch and with Trevor’s [Keels] injury. These kids are hanging in there, getting better, and today they played really well. Especially on the defensive end and were connected on the offensive end with balanced scoring. For a few minutes in the second half, I thought it was the best we’ve played because we coupled really good defense with some outstanding offense. It looked like the [Carolina] Hurricanes playing, there are a lot of hockey assists, so I’m proud of our guys. Hopefully we can get Trevor back soon. When he got hurt against Florida State it looked like it was going to be an amazing thing, he responded really well with his MRI and everything. I’m not sure if he’ll be ready for Tuesday, but I don’t think it will be long term. We look forward to that. I think we shared the ball well. I think in the last two games Jeremy [Roach] has like 20 assists and two turnovers, or something like that, and him and Wendell [Moore] were 17-2 today for assists and turnovers. So, they were sharing the ball and balanced scoring. Syracuse is such a dangerous team. I think Jim [Boeheim]’s team can beat anybody for two reasons: 1) him and 2) they have a style you have to really prepare for. His kids play hard and for me, to see his two sons, Buddy and Jimmy, I’ve known since our families grew up together during USA basketball for 11 years and Julie was there. You don’t pay attention to that during a game but after the game you get a little bit emotional because they’re beautiful people. There was some good stuff, we got to turn it around again and get Clemson on Tuesday.”
On AJ Griffin’s shooting:
“I think they’re learning to play with one another. AJ is our best shooter and I’d really like for him to be more aggressive. I think AJ keeps it really simple. He’s a really easy guy to play with because he keeps spacing, he plays defense, he makes simple passes, and today he did a really good job on [Cole] Swider, that perimeter is a very difficult guard. He’s a threat, and we have got to keep getting to know each other again. Even though this is our 18th game, it’s really like we’ve had two different seasons: the nonconference and take away Virginia Tech, since Christmas, and this has been a disjointed season. The more and more we get to know one another, he’s a key guy, there is no question about it. Every guy on our team has complete confidence in him when they pass it to him, but I thought his defense was the best he’s played. He keeps coming on and that’s good for us.”
On if the team is at the pre-COVID level:
“No, no, we are not at that level. We’re not at the level on conditioning. You can’t take a team summer, fall, and into the season and do it properly with the sport science and things that we do. Then you would keep building from that and temper it if you have too many workloads. All of a sudden it stopped, it’s a different thing. Trevor’s injury was not caused by that. We’ve been very careful with the amount of work loads and the amount of practice just to make sure. We don’t have a lot of guys, but we’re getting there. Along with that is the conditioning of knowing one another, being with one another on the court, not just playing Fortnite or doing stuff when you’re in isolation in your room. It’s coming along, we just have to run our own race. I’m not paying attention to anybody except the team we’re playing next, and my team obviously. We’re going to run our race, keep getting better, and see what happens. Any other things that are put on us, I don’t care. I don’t care about rankings; I care about winning and playing well and getting better. Our kids did that this week. They responded well. We had two bad end of game situations since this part of the conference has started. Sometimes this can really knock you back when you lose one-possession games but thank goodness it didn’t do that for our guys today.”
DUKE FRESHMAN FORWARD PAOLO BANCHERO
On the 14 made threes today and the team becoming more reputable from outside as the season progresses:
“Yeah, I think we’re just shooting our shots now. One thing Coach says is don’t hesitate – if it’s there, shoot it. Let it go. We work a lot on shooting before and after practice, so we’d be wrong not to take those shots. We should want to go out there and shoot confidently.”
On using his positioning to attack the Syracuse 2-3 zone:
“Yeah, just trying to figure part of the zone – just catching it in the middle and then making reads trying to find the open guy and not doing anything too special. We just threw it to the open player and tried to get guys good looks, and obviously looking for my shot when it was there.”
DUKE JUNIOR FORWARD WENDELL MOORE JR.
On the team’s three-point defense:
“It’s really just been our preparation, especially with these last few teams we played. Our main thing was just to run them off the three-point line. Especially with this team here. Their two guards, Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim, are two of the best shooters we have in our conference, two of the best scorers we have so basically on the perimeter we knew we had to come locked in early and it started with myself and Jeremy [Roach] – with those two assignments we knew we needed to win that matchup.”
On getting an emphatic win following a tough loss on the road:
“That last game we lost before this one was definitely a tough one, personally and teamwise. But the second we came back it was this fire that was inside all of us, like this game on Saturday is one that we need to win. It was a bigger game than just a regular game for us. We called it a ‘program game’ in our locker room. So, we all just came out here with that mentality and it really showed with everybody who checked in today – checked in with a different fire, different energy.”
DUKE SOPHOMORE GUARD JEREMY ROACH
On his approach today being back in the starting lineup: “Just coming in and being locked in. Trevor [Keels] went down, so it’s next man up. It’s not like I’m not used to starting so, I came in and accepted my role and just did everything I needed to win the game today.”
On the team’s defense against Buddy Boeheim: “I think Wendell [Moore Jr.] did a heck of a job on him. Just knowing your personnel, knowing your scout. Knowing what he likes to do, knowing tendencies. I think that was a big thing for us. They love to run those floppy actions so just knowing to stay on top of that, knowing to go over the screen because he likes to come off and shoot the ball. Try not to foul him too. Wendell did a great job of not fouling him on his jumpers too, so give a lot of credit to him.”