Game of the Week: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Duke

Story posted February 21, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Michael Katz

Two legendary, powerhouse programs lock horns for the second time of the season this Saturday, as top ranked Syracuse takes on number five Duke. Both teams look to bounce back following tough losses earlier in the week. Syracuse dropped their first contest of the year Wednesday night against Boston College, and the Blue Devils fell to arch-rival North Carolina Thursday.

Dubbed “The Rematch”, these two teams entertained for an instant classic back on February 1 at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse lead for the majority of a close game and was up three points with four seconds remaining after two Tyler Ennis free throws. Three seconds later, Rasheed Sulaimon drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to send it to overtime. Duke controlled the majority of the extra period until Jerami Grant made two free throws to give Syracuse the lead with 39 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Duke’s Rodney Hood drove through an open lane for a lead changing dunk and was met at the rim and stuffed by Rakeem Christmas. A few Ennis free throws locked up the win.

This matchup marks another meeting between the two winningest coaches in Division one basketball history. Mike Krzyzewski has 977 wins and Jim Boeheim has 945.

Syracuse’s luck in close games finally ran out Wednesday night against Boston College. In addition to the Duke game, the Orange knocked off Pittsburgh on a Ennis buzzer beater near half court, and they scraped by NC State on a CJ Fair layup with seven seconds remaining. Olivier Hanlan tied the game up Wednesday for Boston College and sent it to overtime. This time, however, Ennis missed a three pointer at the buzzer and Syracuse was handed their first loss of the season.

Fair dominated the first matchup going for a game-high 28 points. Fair is the Orange’s leading scorer and second leading rebounder this year. He thrives on scoring in the paint which is a matchup nightmare for a relatively small Duke starting five.

Duke took a big hit in the first meeting following the disqualification of Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson at the end of regulation. Both players picked up their fifth fouls in the final two minutes. Jefferson has been the biggest post presence for the Blue Devils, and Parker has been their best player.

Syracuse has been successful with the zone defense in the Boeheim era, and the way to beat the zone is with three point shooting, which has been a strong point for the Blue Devils with Krzyzewski as coach.

Duke thrived from behind the arc, shooting at a 41.7% clip in the first matchup. 15 made three point field goals should be enough to win almost any game. Duke didn’t show up on defense however, as Syracuse shot 57% from the field.

These are two of the three best teams in the ACC and this game has strong implications in the ACC standings and on which team will have a higher NCAA tournament seed. Syracuse cannot give up 45 points from behind the arc again and expect to win. For Duke, Jefferson needs to protect the paint without picking up fouls. If Duke is able to shut down Syracuse’s scorers they should have a good shot at winning. Both teams’ strengths complement the other’s weaknesses and that is what makes this a fun matchup. It is a very close matchup, which promises to produce an entertaining game.

Mike Katz is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email