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Game Preview from @randydunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Syracuse Orange – Game 2

By February 27, 2015April 20th, 2015No Comments

For your reading pleasure… While doing my research, I came upon this article about former Duke player Michael Gbinije who transferred to Syracuse… Gbinije prepares for return to raucous Cameron environment to face former Blue Devils team again.



Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (25-3, 12-3] vs. Syracuse Orange (18-10, 9-6]

Saturday, February 28, 2015 • 7:05 PM • ESPN • Durham, N.C. • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke (25-3, 12-3) hosts Syracuse (18-10, 9-6) Saturday, February 28 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 7:05 PM with Sean McDonough, Dick Vitale and Allison Williams calling the action for ESPN. The Blue Devils enter the game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 74-15 when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Syracuse is unranked in both polls. Duke and Kansas are the only teams in the NCAA to rank in the top 10 of the AP Poll (No. 4), USA Today Coaches Poll (No. 5), Ratings Percentage Index (No. 4) and Strength of Schedule (No. 10). Duke is 11-2 against teams in the top 64 of the Ratings Percentage Index, including a 4-0 mark against teams in the top 20. Syracuse enters the contest 63rd in the RPI.


Syracuse (18-10, 9-6) faces the second of three straight top-10 opponents and the fifth ranked team in a span of six games when the Orange play at #4/5 Duke (25-3, 12-3) on Saturday, February 28. The Orange won at #9/8 Notre Dame on Tuesday, 65-60. After facing the Blue Devils, Syracuse returns home to face #2/3 Virginia on Monday night. In Duke the Orange face one of the nation’s hottest clubs. The Blue Devils have won eight straight and 11-of-12. Duke escaped Virginia Tech with a win Wednesday night, 96-86 in overtime. The Blue Devils have only lost once, to Miami on January 13, in 14 home games this season. Duke also captured the February 14 pairing with the Orange in the Dome, 80-72. The Blue Devils lead the all-time series, 4-3. Saturday’s sideline instructions will come from the two winningest coaches in the Division ranks — Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (966) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (1,008). The matchup also features two of the top centers in college basketball in Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas (18.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG) and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (18.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG). Both are finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award (top center) and the Oscar Robertson Trophy (player of the year), and are on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Top 30.

2. Last Time Out


In its last outing, Duke recorded a 91-86 overtime win at Virginia Tech Wednesday to reach the 25-win plateau for the eighth consecutive season and 24th time under Mike Krzyzewski. Jahlil Okafor scored a career-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and two assists. He became just the fifth Duke freshman to score 30 or more points in a game. Quinn Cook continued his All-America caliber play with 26 points while playing all 45 minutes. He was 8-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point range in the win. Cook scored 21 points and knocked down five three-point field goals after intermission. Justise Winslow added 15 points, seven rebounds and two steals for the Blue Devils, while Tyus Jones notched a team-high nine assists. Duke shot 59.3 percent (35-of-59) from the field, marking the 14th time it has shot 50 percent or better from the field in a game. The Blue Devils made all three field goal attempts in overtime.

Game Notes

  • Duke started 25-3 during the 2007, 2001, and 2000 seasons (since 1996).
  • The win over Virginia Tech extended the Duke winning streak to eight games.
  • Duke has played in two overtime games this season. Over the last five seasons, the Blue Devils have played in five overtime games with a record of 3-2.
  • The Blue Devils have won six close games this season (a win by five or fewer points). Since 2009, Duke is 32-14 in close games.
    • Have won every game this season (6-0) after recording 91 or more total points.
    • Has won every game this season (5-0) when its field goal percentage has been 59.3 percent or better.
    • Has won every game this season (9-0) after committing nine or fewer turnovers.
    • Has won every game this season (5-0) when opponents record 26 or fewer rebounds.
    • Has won 100 percent of the time (12-0) when Justise Winslow has 15 points or more, 100 percent of the time (8-0) when Quinn Cook has four free throws made or more, and 77 percent of the time (10-3) when Jahlil Okafor has nine rebounds or more.
  • The Blue Devils have outshot their opponents in field goal percentage for the past four games.
  • This is the third win of the season where the Blue Devils came back after being down at halftime.
  • Jahlil Okafor recorded a team season high in points with 30 and field goals made with 13.
    • Accounted for 32.9 percent of the team’s points.
    • Led the team in scoring 12 times and in rebounding 16 times in 28 games this season.
    • Marks the 11th 20-point game of his career.
  • The top two rebounders (Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow) accounted for 51.6 percent of the rebounds.
  • Quinn Cook tallied a team season high in three pointers attempted with 11.
    • Marks the 13th 20-point game of his career.
    • Has three straight 20+ point games.
  • Justise Winslow has nine straight double-digit point games.
    • Fourth foul out of the season for him.


In its last outing, Syracuse squared off with No. 9 Notre Dame on Tuesday, February. 24 and pulled off an upset over the Fighting Irish 65-60 in conference play. The Orange improve their record to 2-4 versus AP-Ranked teams this season with the win. Rakeem Christmas earned a double-double in the win with 14 points and 12 rebounds. B.J. Johnson also had a solid game, scoring a game-high 19 points and adding six rebounds. Pat Connaughton registered a double-double for the Fighting Irish with 13 points and 15 rebounds.

Game Notes

  • The last time SU started the season 18-10 was 1996.
  • The Orange have won seven close games this season (a win by five or fewer points). Since 2009, Syracuse is 40-20 in close games.
  • Prior to this game, SU played 55 Top 25 opponents in the last five seasons with a record of 35-20.
  • The Orange have won 83 percent of the time this season (10-2) after recording 39 or more rebounds.
    • Has won every game this season (11-0) when opponents record 60 or fewer total points.
    • Has won every game this season (8-0) after holding an opponent to under 34.7 percent field goal percentage.
    • Has won 83 percent of the time (10-2) when Trevor Cooney has five field goals made or more, 74 percent of the time (14-5) when Rakeem Christmas has four free throws made or more, and 83 percent of the time (5-1) when B.J. Johnson has six rebounds or more.
  • The Orange have recorded more blocks than their opponents for the past seven games.
  • The top two scorers (B.J. Johnson and Rakeem Christmas) accounted for 50.7 percent of the points.
  • Michael Gbinije recorded a team season high in steals with six.
    • Has eight straight double-digit point games.
    • Had a career high with six steals.
  • Rakeem Christmas accounted for 30.7 percent of the team’s rebounds.
    • Has led the team in rebounding in 14 out of 28 games this season.
    • Recorded the 19th double-digit rebound game of his career.
    • Has four straight double-digit point games.
    • Fourth foul out of the season for him.
    • Recorded a double-double. It was his 11th this season and 12th of his career.

3. Head-to-Head

Duke leads the all-time record series 4-3. Under Coach K, the series is 3-2. At the Carrier Dome Duke has 1-0 record. In the last meeting Duke won the February 14 pairing with the Orange in the Dome, 80-72.

Duke split a pair of games last season with each team winning at home. Jim Boeheim scored 15 points in a 91-81 loss to Duke March 12, 1966 in the first meeting between the two schools.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has the edge in the majority of the categories, which give the Blue Devils a solid statistical edge head-to-head.


Duke 2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Syracuse
81.0 (+14.8) PPG (Scoring Margin) 69.2 (+6.3)
66.3 Opponents PPG 62.9
56.8 Effective FG% 48.5
50.2 FG% 44.0
43.3 Opponent FG% 40.0
38.9 3PT FG% 31.3
32.6 Opponent 3PT FG% 31.0
37.8 (+6.5) RPG (Rebound Margin) 37.1 (+2.8)
31.3 Opponent RPG 34.4
15.6 APG 15.5
7.1 SPG 8.3
11.3 (+1.1) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 11.8 (+2.1)
12.4 Opponent TOPG 13.9
3.7 BPG 5.2

4. Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,]

 Duke-Cuse G2 4Fs

Duke has the edge over Syracuse in all factors. When it comes to getting to the free throw line, the edge is 42.1% vs. 36.2%. Duke’s edge in offensive rebounding is 37.0% vs. 33.7%, shooting the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 56.8% vs. 48.5%, and handling the ball better (16.7% vs. 17.6%).

5. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both teams’ overall profile at this point:


  • Two main scorers (Cook/Okafor); T. Jones/Winslow close behind
  • Commits few fouls
  • Highly efficient attack


  • Three main scorers (Christmas/Cooney/Gbinije)
  • Hard to score against
  • Doesn’t send teams to the line often

Now, a few key points to consider. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Battle of the ‘Bigs’
    • On the inside, Okafor will certainly test Rakeem Christmas. With much of the offense flowing through Duke’s center, Christmas has to be smart in order to stay out of foul trouble. If we are successful in getting Christmas off the court with early fouls, Okafor will torch redshirt freshman Chinonso Obokoh inside.
    • Winslow and Jefferson round out the frontcourt. Both are extremely athletic, and Jefferson had a very productive game in the Dome last season. Winslow was fantastic in the first matchup. He is a long wing who can shoot, attack the basket and pass when needed.
    • Duke will attack the glass hard, making Tyler Roberson’s presence critical for Syracuse. He has to be productive and prevent the Blue Devils from having second or third opportunities. Roberson is even more important because when B.J. Johnson comes into the game, Syracuse has a serious size disadvantage.
    • Given the above, the key for Syracuse is to push out on the shooters, stay smart in their rotations and trap when given the opportunity. The Orange may have to force turnovers in this one in order to get some easy buckets and gain momentum. Joseph and Cooney will also have to do a better job at preventing the Duke guards from getting into the lane.
  • Zone Play
    • Duke solved the mystery of the zone in the first matchup after second half adjustments allowed their guards to get into the lane and find players for easy buckets. Their ability to move the ball quickly and efficiently forces the zone to rotate faster than they would like, leaving certain spots vulnerable. Combine that with our ‘bigs’ being able to handle and pass, and you have a recipe for success against the Orange 2-3 zone.
  • Foul Shooting (Continues to be a problem)
    • Duke has come close to putting itself in holes all year with poor shots at the line
    • They need to be more precise particularly when K goes into what I call his motion stall offense.
  • Syracuse Scoring
    • Syracuse generally gets consistent production from only three players. Christmas, Gbinije and Cooney. They will need each to play at a high level to pull off the win. Gbinije has been lighting it up as of late, sparked by his increased aggression attacking the rim. Seeing how Winslow guards him will be an interesting factor to watch (look for switches).
    • Cooney will likely be followed by Cook. Cooney has struggled lately while battling a sore back. Against Notre Dame, however, he busted out of that slump with some clutch shots late in the second half. His ability to continue that play will be critical to the Orange’s offense.
    • The key for Syracuse is, however, for all of those things to click at once. That has not happened much this season, but may need to in this one.

6. Endgame

A pair of coaches with nearly 2,000 wins between them face off on Saturday when the Syracuse Orange visit the Duke Blue Devils.

While the game is very important, especially to Duke, the storyline is the fact that the two men’s Division I coaches with the most wins will be meeting in this game. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has 1,007 career victories, while his Saturday opponent, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, has won 965 games in his career.

As for the game itself, Duke is trying to earn a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and must continue winning to do so. The Blue Devils are 25-3 this year, including a 12-3 mark in the ACC with three conference games remaining as they trail league-leader Virginia ( 14-1). Duke has won eight straight games after opening league play at 4-3.

The Orange are ineligible for postseason play including the ACC tournament. Syracuse has alternated wins and losses in their last seven games going 4-3 following a big 65-60 road win at Notre Dame on Tuesday.

The Blue Devils are playing good basketball with eight-straight wins and their offense is more efficient and now ranks No. 1 in the country and owns a top-six effective FG percentage. Duke scores 78 PPG in ACC action on 48 percent FG shooting, both league-best and Syracuse does not shoot the ball well enough ( 42% ) or have enough scorers to keep pace.

The Syracuse fabled 2-3 zone will not slow freshman Jahlil Okafor (18.4 PPG), who is No. 2 in league rebounding with 9.4 per game and leads the league in shooting at 64 percent FG. Fellow freshman Justice Winslow (12 PPG) and junior Amile Jefferson give Duke the edge inside and the perimeter power of Quinn Cook (15.9 PPG ) and Tyus Jones (11.5 PPG)can create in transition, force turnovers and handle the Syracuse zone.

Syracuse’s issues revolve around their lack of play at the point guard position following the early departure of last year’s star Tyler Ennis. The Orange defense is still solid and near defensive dominator status, but they will not hold up on the boards or shooting against Duke in this tough environment. The bright spot for Syracuse this season has been the play of big man Rakeem Christmas, who is averaging 18.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Trevor Cooney averages 13.5 points, while Michael Gbinije scores 13 points per outing.

Duke has the personnel and ability to get out in front and create more transition baskets to take the Orange out of their slow-down game on defense. The Blue Devils were successful against Clemson’s strong defense with a 22-point home win and blew Notre Dame out on this court by 30. Focus remains for Duke as they still have a chance at a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed.

In reality, this game should not be very close. Duke is the better team, has a lot to play for and is playing at home. The Blue Devils prevail 74-62.

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