A Wild Week for the Orange Culminates with Upset over Top-Ranked Duke
Wow! Syracuse battled through a wild week defeating Clemson at home, being blown out by a subpar Georgia Tech team in the Carrier Dome, and traveling to Durham, NC to topple the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Three games in six days is tough for any team, but the way the Orange weathered that storm was a script that no one could write.
Syracuse took on the Clemson Tigers on Wednesday night in their second ACC matchup of the 2018-19 campaign. The Orange jumped out to a 21-10 lead thanks to a 19-5 run capped off by a dunk by Oshae Brissett with 8:41 left in the opening stanza. Clemson shortened Syracuse’s advantage to eight, 30-22 at the half. The Orange grabbed control of the game as a triple by Elijah Hughes gave Syracuse a 51-36 edge with 9:13 remaining. The Tigers made it a six point game, 54-48, when Marcquise Reed nailed a trey with 4:46 to go, but the Orange hung on and secured four consecutive defensive stops to earn a 61-53 victory to improve to 2-0 in conference play.
Syracuse shot 41.7-percent from the field and held the Tigers to a 35.8-percent clip. The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone perplexed Clemson all night as the Tigers committed 17 turnovers.
Reed led Clemson with 16 points, on 5-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, and three assists. Elijah Thomas chipped in with 13 points on, on 4-of-6 from the field, and seven boards.
Hughes paced Syracuse with 14 points and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle added 12 points, three boards, and three assists. Frank Howard tallied 12 points, on 4-of-8 from the floor, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out four assists. Marek Dolezaj stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, on 3-of-5 shooting, four boards, four helpers, two blocks, and two steals.
The Orange looked to remain undefeated in league play when they squared off with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Saturday evening. Both teams struggled to score in the opening twenty minutes and Georgia Tech took a one point lead, 27-26 into the break. The Yellow Jackets blew the game wide open with a 24-7 spurt that ended with a layup by Jose Alvarado to build a 51-33 edge with 12:17 left in the game. Syracuse ran a full-court press for the final 14 minutes of the contest, but failed to get anything going offensively, which allowed Georgia Tech to pull away to a 73-59 win on the road.
The Orange had improved their shooting over the last few weeks until the Yellow Jackets’ zone stifled their offensive attack. Syracuse shot a dreadful 31.6-percent from the floor and an even more pitiful 21.2-percent from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, shot the lights out—59.5-percent from the field and 50-percent from three-point land.
Alvarado led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, on 5-of-6 from the field, and three rebounds. James Banks III poured in 16 points, on 6-of-10 from the floor, grabbed seven boards, blocked three shots, and came away with three steals. Curtis Haywood II dropped in 15 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, corralled four rebounds, and distributed seven helpers. Abdoulaye Gaeye finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
Brissett scored a team-high 15 points, pulled in seven boards, and dished out three assists. Hughes recorded 12 points and three rebounds, while Battle contributed with 11 points.
After suffering a bad loss at home to Georgia Tech, the Orange were staring down a .500 in record in conference play as they were set to battle with #1 Duke on the road on Monday. In desperate need of a signature win, Syracuse needed a few bounces to fall their way and an improved shooting performance in order to pull off an unforeseen upset. The Blue Devils, and their four star freshman, were fresh off a last second win at Florida State two days earlier and came into tip-off favored by 17.
Cam Reddish, the third-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 was out with flu-like symptoms, but Duke’s remaining star frosh raced out to an early 12-0 lead only three minutes into the contest. However, the tide was about to change. The Blue Devils’ freshman point guard, Tre Jones, separated his right shoulder when he collided with Howard as the two players were chasing after a loose ball five and a half minutes into the first half.
The Orange came all the way back to tie the game at 29 with 6:37 remaining in the opening stanza. Syracuse claimed their first lead of the game, 36-35, on a free throw by Paschal Chukwu with 4:49 to go before intermission. RJ Barrett, the top recruit in the Class of 2018, extended Duke’s lead with a jumper to 49-44 with 1:19 to go before the break. The Orange trimmed the Blue Devils’ halftime edge to one, 49-48, as Hughes made what could possibly be the shot of the year as his 75-foot heave at the buzzer was true.
Syracuse began the second half by taking the lead (50-49) on a layup by Brissett less than a minute in. Duke reclaimed their advantage, 52-50, on a layup by Marques Bolden with 18:49 left. The Blue Devils built an eight point edge, 67-59, on a layup by the second ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 and the leading candidate for National Player of the Year, Zion Williamson, with 13:41 to go. The Orange were not ready to go away easily. Syracuse reclaimed the lead, 81-80, with 3:10 left on a layup by Chukwu. Williamson had a chance to win it for Duke at the free throw line after a questionable foul was called on Chukwu. The diaper-dandy converted on only one-of-two attempts from the charity stripe and the game was tied at 85. Battle’s shot at the buzzer clanked off the back iron and the ACC rivals were headed to overtime for the second time since the Orange joined the conference in 2013-14.
Hughes controlled the opening tip in the extra session and raced down the court to give Syracuse and 87-85 advantage. Less than a minute into the overtime period, Alex O’Connell nailed one from deep to give the Blue Devils an 88-87 lead. On the ensuing possession, Battle hit a jumper to put the Orange ahead for good. Barrett’s three at the buzzer missed and Syracuse emerged with a 95-91 upset over #1 Duke in overtime.
With the win, the Orange improved to 12-5 on the season, 3-1 in ACC play, and Syracuse became the first school other than North Carolina to upset a top-ranked Duke team at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Orange shot 43.8-percent from the floor, including 44-percent from three, and held the Blue Devils to just 38.7-percent from the floor and a miserable 20.9-percent from behind the three-point line. Syracuse outrebounded Duke 51-48.
Williamson led the Blue Devils with a career-high 35 points, on 12-of-20 shooting, and 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Williamson also blocked four shots. Barrett was an assist shy of a triple-double with 23 points, on 8-of-30 from the field, 16 rebounds, and nine assists. Bolden recorded a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks off the bench, while O’Connell came off the pine to hang 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists on the Orange in the losing effort.
Battle paced Syracuse with 32 points, on 12-of-28 from the floor, four rebounds, and four assists. Hughes added 20 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and five boards. Howard scored 16 points in the second half, on 7-of-13 from the field, corralled six rebounds, and dished out five assists. Brissett finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Chukwu came off the bench and recorded a double-double featuring 10 points, a career-high 18 rebounds, and three blocks.
Coach Boeheim commented on his team’s win over Duke in his postgame press conference. “When (Chukwu) plays like that,” Boeheim said, “we’re a different team.”
Coach K commented on the result in his postgame press conference. “This was a very difficult night for our basketball program,” K said. “We’ll figure out ways of handling it.”
Player of the Week: Paschal Chukwu
From Battle’s first half dominance against Duke and Hughes’ continued steady play, this week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Paschal Chukwu. After not playing against Clemson, and playing just 15 minutes against Georgia Tech, Chukwu played the game of his life in helping the Orange earn a signature win at #1 Duke. He was a force inside against Williamson and stepped up to hit key free throws and collected rebounds down the stretch to get defensive stops when his team needed it most. If Chukwu can build on Monday night’s performance and be a legitimate threat on the interior, Syracuse will be able to remain atop the ACC standings.
Up Next: Pittsburgh
The Orange return home to face Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2pm. After being the laughing stock of the ACC a year ago, first-year head coach Jeff Capel has rejuvenated the program. The Panthers are 12-5 overall, 2-2 in conference, and are coming off a 75-62 win against #11 Florida State on Monday night. Pitt is led by Xavier Johnson who is averaging 17.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. Last season, Syracuse swept the season series from the Panthers.