I had mentioned in a tweet last night that as impressive as Duke’s 7 game winning streak was, their ability to hold a lead and put teams away has been underwhelming. In addition to an inconsistent defense the team had lacked the killer instinct that top tier teams tend to have. Duke has a much smaller margin for error and against the Orange Duke showed that vulnerability.
Duke had chance after chance in the first half to put the game seemingly out of reach or at very least to the point that any Syracuse run would be moot. Instead Duke squandered opportunity after opportunity with what can basically be deemed as unforced errors. An 8 point halftime lead should have probably been double that as Duke picked apart and exploited the 2-3 zone. Duke failed multiple times to convert on fast break opportunities and while they did not turn the ball over a ton they did cough it up at inopportune times – especially in the second half.
Luke Kennard again played a great game for Duke scoring 23 points, pulling down 7 boards and dishing 5 assists. Jayson Tatum, who was on triple-double watch, scored 19 points, had 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Tatum did most of his damage in the first half and some untimely turnovers in the second half aided the Orange in their comeback. Tatum ended with 4 of Duke’s 8 turnovers.
Grayson Allen had a game to forget against Syracuse going 2 for 11 and 1 of 8 on 3 pointers for 8 points. Duke’s entire backcourt played stretch of 7 plus minutes with 4 fouls apiece ( Allen, Kennard, Jackson). Overall Duke could not find its 3 point shot just shooting 10-33.
In addition to the last second hero 3-pointer from John Gillon that gave him his game high 26 points, what sank Duke was their offensive execution down the stretch and inability to stop drives to the lane. Duke had 2 straight possessions with a chance to really milk the clock and settled for a long 3 from Grayson Allen that misfired and an off-balance shot from Luke Kennard that was off as well. The loss doesn’t hurt Duke as much as it helps Syracuse but anytime you lose a game you have every chance of winning it stays with you. The loss does for the most part guarantee, UNC will be go into the ACC Tournament as the number 1 seed as we both know so-called regular season championships do not exist in the ACC.