Duke put together a much more efficient second half to take down the Syracuse Orange in the Carrier Dome 80 to 72. Syracuse took a 3 point lead into the half on the strength of hot shooting from former Dukie Michael Gbinije, who has emerged as a star for the Orange. Gbinije torched Duke in the first half going 5 of 6 from 3 point range and scoring 19 points on his way to 27 for the game. Duke was able to cool the hot-handed Gbinije in the second half with a renewed defensive effort that kept the potent perimeter of Trevor Cooney and Gbinije from getting open looks. Rakeem Christmas, the heralded Syracuse senior big man, was kept in check with 11 points on 5 of 17 shooting, missing a lot of his shots from point-blank range.
Jahlil Okafor had another impressive outing for the Blue Devils scoring 23 points on 10 of 15 shooting and pulling down 13 rebounds despite some foul trouble. Senior guard Quinn Cook scored 17 for the Devils on 4 of 10 shooting, Cook also had 5 assists and 2 steals. Cook & Matt Jones hit threes that keyed the Duke run in the first half that took a Syracuse 9 point lead and chipped it down to 3 before the intermission.
Tyus Jones had another solid outing for the Blue Devils with 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 11 points. Justise Winslow also scored in double figures for Duke before fouling out late in the second half. Winslow scored 9 in the first half for Duke on his way to 12 for the game, Winslow also had several acrobatic plays in the game, two amazing blocks at the rim (which Duke fans are getting used to) and one on a missed shot where the freshman skyed and seemed to hang in the air forever for a tip in. Winslow also contributed 3 assists and 7 rebounds for Duke and his defensive efforts along with guard Matt Jones helped to slow down the Syracuse offense in the second half.
Duke was able to hold Syracuse to 38% shooting in the second half while heating up to 60% themselves. Duke was great in transition in the second half and was able to push that 3 point deficit to a lead that Syracuse could not get closer than 4 points.
Every scholarship player in a Duke uniform played meaningful minutes in this game, and everyone scored. Duke got 15 bench points tonight a stat that I try to watch closely as it shows, in my opinion, how good this team will or won’t be come March. If Duke can consistently get double-figure efforts from it’s bench it may be what carries them and pushes them over the top come tournament time. That coupled with better defense, especially on the perimeter, which they displayed in the second half against Syracuse. The fact that this team came out after the break and made adjustments is a very good sign. It’s a sign of a team that is not only learning but learning quickly.
Notable for Duke:
Grayson Allen with 5 big points for Duke, hitting an open shot on the perimeter to break the Cuse zone and 2 pressure filled free throws during the closing moments of the game.
Matt Jones with 8 big points off the bench. Played over 30 minutes while junior big man Amile Jefferson played under 15.