Duke – Syracuse in 2015 did not have the same luster as the version we saw last year. Duke came away with a victory at Syracuse by 8, despite Michael Gbinije scoring a career high 27. The Cameron rematch was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. Michael Gbinije did not have a career high, in fact Gbinije would go 5 of 20 for 12 points. Syracuse as a team only scored 54 and shot 30% for the game and only 15% from beyond the arc. Duke took the game fairly non-dramatically 73-54.
Defense, where Duke struggled in their last game, was much better in this game. Duke was much sharper partially aided by some bad Syracuse shooting.
Justice Winslow was a stud in the game for the Blue Devils scoring 15 of his game high 23 in the first half. Winslow scored in every conceivable way for Duke – via the lob, the drive, the stick back off of offensive rebounds, he even hit on 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Winslow finished the game 1 rebound shy of a double-double – he also added 3 blocks and 2 steals. Quinn Cook, despite having an off shooting night still finished the game with 17 points for the Devils. Cook went 5 of 15 from the floor and only 1 of 8 from beyond the arc – Cook also had 4 assists. Tyus Jones added 9 for the Devils to go with this 6 assists, uncharacteristically the freshman guard had 6 turnovers, 2 of which were questionable calls at best. Big man Jahlil Okafor finished the game with 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting and also 14 rebounds. The freshman center also had 3 blocks and played much better on the defensive end. Still an Achilles heel for Duke is the inability of Jahlil Okafor to make free throws. Okafor was 1 of 7 for the game, Duke as a whole shot a paltry 56% for the game. One has to wonder if this will be utilized at some point as a strategy in either one of Duke’s final 2 regular season games or in the quickly approaching post season.
Love the evolution of justise winslow, used to bull his way into off. fouls, now reads and assesses the defense much better.
— Duke Blogger (@Dukeblogger) March 1, 2015
Not to be lost in the mix was the contribution of guard Matt Jones who got the start for Duke. Jones hit 3 from beyond the arc for 9 points and more often than not was charged with guarding Trevor Cooney who despite a late game flurry in the final ticks of the game was held completely in check.
Duke dominated in points in the paint by a 12 point margin (38-26) most of that coming at the hands of the freshman combination of Justise Winslow and jahlil Okafor. Neither team took care of the ball well with Duke turning the ball over 17 times to 15 by the Orange but Duke would have a 3 point edge in points off of those turnovers.
More importantly than the offensive numbers Duke in general looked much more active and intense on the defensive end. With both teams having short benches there was no advantage in terms of fatigue. Duke shot down Michael Gbinije, Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney.
“We played really good defense tonight. I am proud of my guys because they are a tough team obviously. Our defense was terrific tonight. It was not very good at Virginia Tech, but overall it has gotten a lot better. We just had a not good game against Virginia Tech. Tonight, though, it was excellent. Justise [Winslow] had a great game, but I thought Quinn [Cook] on [Michael] Gbinije and Matt [Jones] on [Trevor] Cooney worked out well. Those two kids are really good players and have had sensational seasons for Syracuse. We were able to keep Gbinije out of the paint and part of that was we did something a little bit different defensively and it clogged up the paint a little bit more. It helped against [Rakeem] Christmas and against their penetration, so that was good. Tyus [Jones] was the main guy who had to do that and he did a really good job of it. We turned it over early, about seven turnovers in five minutes, and then we started to attack the zone really well. This was a solid, really good performance by our team. I was worried about us with the schedule that we’ve been on and coming back from Virginia Tech at five in the morning and all that kind of stuff, but our guys seemed fresh. They picked up our game plan with one day preparation, which is really good.”On coaching against Jim Boeheim:
“I’m sure he doesn’t pay attention, and I don’t pay attention, to the guy on the other bench. You do your job. He and I are great friends and we will always be great friends. We’ve won four gold medals together. No country has ever done that. He and I have been a team, we’re not the ones who won it but we coached the team that won it and hopefully we will win a fifth one in Rio. It can be reversed real easy, like he can beat us twice. We have two really good programs and no one is going to win all the time. They have an unusual thing happening for them: their season is going to be over in a week. So, how do you respond to that? So far, they’ve responded great, but still, it’s tough knowing that there is not something after that. That’s not an easy thing psychologically for a team.”On Duke’s readiness for the ACC Tournament:
“Two weeks from today, there will be a championship game played in Greensboro. I think we are ready for whatever game plan. We have to get ready physically. We have three guys now with bad ankles, with Quinn getting hurt today. It’s not a good thing. That’s three-eighths, 37.5% I believe, and that’s not good. So hopefully we get a lot of therapy on Monday. You can’t practice with those guys, so we have got to get them well going not just into the ACC tournament, but theNCAAs are the most important.”On the team’s injuries:
“Jah[lil] is not 100%. He, even in warmups, was tightening up and had to get retaped and get therapy. Grayson [Allen] has been gimpy on it. I would have to look back at the tape to see what Quinn did. Quinn is usually pretty good. He likes to shoot so he doesn’t want to be off the court.”
On the team’s defense:
“I thought this and Clemson was really good. We were good throughout. We were pretty good against Notre Dame here. It was a good game for us today. We played well today.”On the strategy with Tyus Jones:
“After he was pressuring their point and as soon as they gave it up, we wanted him to try to cause a little bit of havoc in the middle, whether it be on Christmas or on penetration. With the lineup that we started, we can switch one through four. So, the ball screens for Gbinije, if it’s a four you switch and if it’s a double drag you could switch on it. It just worked out because of the smaller lineup we had. Jah[lil] did a good job on icing in the five ball screen. Our ball screen defense today was very good, but a lot of it had to do with switching and having a helper down there. Really, it is like zoning up. You’re zoning up down there.”
On Rakeem Christmas:
“First of all, we have a great player. You are talking about two great players, two of the three or four best players in the league with Jah[lil] and Rakeem. Maybe you throw [Jerian] Grant in there. Those three are pretty damn good and have had great years. I thought Rakeem did a great job on Jah[lil], too, but we were able to help a little bit more to get Jah[lil] some help. Justise played so well and he added a physical presence in there. Christmas has had a sensational year, but he gets a lot of attention and he got a lot of attention from us today.”
Duke Senior Quinn Cook
On Jahlil’s Okafor’s defensive play against Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas:
“For the second time, he’s played great defensively. He knows he can score but takes challenges defensively, especially against one of the better big men in the country. He did two outstanding jobs on him. He’s just getting better and better.”
When asked if Duke was looking for Justise Winslow around the free throw line on offense early in the game:
“[Against] the zone, that’s really the only thing that’s open because those wings are so athletic and big, pushing the perimeter guys out. When we get it in the middle, Justise can make plays and he made a ton of them today. That was really what we wanted to emphasize against the zone – just getting into the teeth of the zone and making plays.”
On the difference between Duke’s defense tonight and its defense in the first meeting at Syracusefs:
“We did a better job talking today. In the first eight minutes of the game, we didn’t talk and [Syracuse] got like four or five offensive rebounds in that first eight minutes, so Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] got on us and we responded and we didn’t let up.”
On extending his streak to 39 games with at least one made three-pointer:
“I’m just shooting my shots confidently. I know I’m going to get shots and good looks because my teammates are great passers, so I’m just fortunate enough to hit one.”
When asked how the solid play of Justise Winslow has helped Duke:
“It makes it a lot easier because he gets to the rim, he gets fouled, and he’s hitting his jumper. And when he does that we’re a really scary team. When he gets a rebound he can push, so Tyus [Jones] and I can run in transition and get threes. He’s like a point-forward out there. He does it all.”
When asked how he felt about having one game left at Cameron in his Duke career:
“I’m just taking it one game at a time. When Senior Night comes, I guess I’ll be emotional, but I’m not thinking about it like that.”
Duke Freshman Justise Winslow
“It feels great to beat Syracuse. It puts us in a better position in conference play with our record. We just wanted to go out there and compete, and that’s what we did as a team tonight.”
“[Against] the zone, I was in the middle a lot but I wanted to keep moving so [Syracuse] would have to keep their eyes on me. So I was going from the high post to the corners, just trying to stay active. Then on the defensive end, I was just trying to make plays, getting back on defense, trying to limit their fast break points. I was trying to be active and make plays on both ends of the floor.”
“Coming into games, we don’t expect any margin of victory. We just want to go out there and compete. We know what we’re capable of when we play good defense. We picked up the defense in the first half. We have a high ceiling as a team, and when we can get to that ceiling we’ll be really great. But right now we’re not there, so we’ve just got to keep improving and trying to get better.”
“We have some momentum going, things we can build on, but we’re not satisfied. We know there are a lot of things we can improve on, so we’re going to take and learn from this game and try to get better moving forward.”
When asked how it feels to have so much success as a freshman:
“Just since the beginning of the season, Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] didn’t treat us like freshman. He didn’t treat Quinn [Cook] like a senior but all equal, all just teammates and brothers. Just coming in, I wanted to have fun. I’m just excited about what the team’s doing right now, and I just can’t wait to keep getting better.”
Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor
“Justise took matters into his own hands, and he was the best player on the floor tonight. When he’s playing like that, it’s very hard to beat us and it makes my job easier and everybody else’s on the team too. He’s a man-child. He contributed to this team a lot tonight – rebounds, blocking shots, scoring obviously. He was a leader tonight so we rode his back.”
“The score doesn’t show how the game actually was. Syracuse obviously is an amazing team. We executed our game plan well, they missed some shots that we needed them to miss, and we hit a bunch of shots in the second half. I think that’s what led to the lead being so large.”
“We haven’t faced too many zones but we knew Syracuse was going to obviously play zone. We watched a lot of film on it and we executed the game plan well.”
On his defensive effort against Rakeem Christmas:
“I was tired fighting him down low. He’s such an amazing player. It was a lot of hard work trying to contain him.”
“We’ve won nine games in a row, and I feel like we are getting better, and everybody’s ready to play and we’re playing for each other so it’s been a lot of fun playing with these guys.”
Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim
“I thought the first half we had some opportunities, we had some good looks, you know we cannot compete with Duke if we compete 20, 29 percent shooting, 16 or 15 percent from the three-point line. We’ve got to shoot better. I thought for the most part our defense, we competed on defense, but we just, you’ve got to make shots to beat, to be in the game with the fourth ranked team in the country, and we didn’t make shots. I thought Mike [Gbinije] got some really good looks; he’s been playing, had a great year for us. I thought he got the same shots or better that he got in Syracuse but the ball didn’t go in the basket. I thought [Jahlil] Okafor is difficult down low, but [Justise] Winslow was the difference tonight. He made a couple big threes and got in the lane. There were a couple loose balls that got away and they converted, but that’s what good teams do. Again, I thought we played all right but we didn’t get the ball in the basket. You have to do that, particularly down here.”
On Duke’s defense:
“No I think they are good, good defensively. But you know I mean both games both teams have played very well offensively in Syracuse. I don’t know what, but people say you can’t shoot in big arenas, but they shot well up there and we shot well up there, and both teams didn’t shoot well here. But I thought, you know it’s always part defense. We played Notre Dame the other night they shot 3-22 in the second half from the three-point line. Some of it is a little bit of our defense, some of it they missed some shots, and you know it’s hard to call that one way or the other. I thought we got some pretty good looks. There was especially a time in the first half when there were a couple transitions plays and we got some open threes. Trevor [Cooney] got one, Mike got one, B.J. [Johnson] got one, you know we missed all three. Those were not defended three-point shots. We have to make some of those, if not all of those, to be in the game and you know we didn’t.”
On whether the team started pressing after missing open opportunities:
“I’m sure, I’m sure they do. Mike missed four lay ups, you know you miss threes, that happens, you can’t miss lay ups.”
On this game being called Syracuse’s “Super Bowl” considering it’s not playing in the postseason:
“You know we are playing every game as hard as we can, that’s all we are doing. You know we went up to Boston College and we played great, we played a great game up there and they are dangerous at home. We played well against Louisville, and they didn’t have [Chris] Jones, and they didn’t have Jones today and they went down and beat Florida State by 20. So we played well. We played well at Notre Dame. We played well, we really played well in our losses to Duke, to Pittsburgh both times. We played about as well as we can offensively. Today we did not play well offensively. We are approaching it one game at a time, just to play the best that we can. There are 300 NCAA teams that are not going to the NCAA tournament this year. I would hope they are playing hard every night. I know they are.”
On Rakeem Christmas’s play despite his foul trouble:
“I thought in the first game at Syracuse he was really good. But I thought he got killed, I thought he played really good up at Syracuse….11 rebounds, five blocks, five assists and you know just missed, he got 17 looks and just didn’t make them. Tonight we had trouble getting him the ball. They did a better job keeping us from getting him the ball I thought, and I don’t think he was as good rebounding as he was and blocking shots at Syracuse. But you know, I thought he played better at Syracuse. He just didn’t make shots that he had.”
On Trevor Cooney’s apparent frustration:
“You know he won the Notre Dame game for us at the end of the night and it’s pretty hard to do that, score nine points at the end of the game to win a game. His back’s sore but he’s not, he’s playing through it. He’s our best shooter; he’s our best defensive guy, and if he’s shooting 20 percent he’s shooting better than the other two guys we could put in the game. You have to go with what you have you know. If you got someone we could put in we would do that.”
On whether fatigue is a factor:
“None. Absolutely none. These guys are 20 years old. Some of these guys next year they want to play 80 games, 100 games next year.”