One great game does not make a rivalry, but if last night’s instant classic between Duke and Syracuse is any indication, we have plenty to look forward to in the future. It was the first on campus meeting between the two historic programs, led by the two winningest coaches in Division I basketball history.
It was a game that was so good 40 minutes weren’t enough. After it was over Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said it may be the greatest game ever played in the Carrier Dome. It is certainly the greatest game of the 2013-2014 season, thus far. It was the kind of game neither team deserved to lose, but ultimately one of them had to.
Rasheed Sulaimon hit a buzzer beating three pointer to send the game to overtime. Duke had the lead with 80 seconds remaining in the extra period, but could not hold off a Syracuse rally and Quinn Cook’s desperation 20 footer at the final buzzer wouldn’t fall.
Syracuse came out on top, but its hard to say anyone “lost” the game. It was certainly a tough loss for the Blue Devils, but they proved they have grown a lot since the mind boggling losses at Notre Dame and Clemson. Both of these teams are National Title contenders and the performances we saw in front of a record setting crowd in Syracuse validates that.
Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon both continued to play like stars. Jabari Parker continued to be aggressive in the post. Dawkins continued his hot shooting. And Rodney Hood continued his steady play. In the end it just wasn’t enough to beat a great Syracuse team in front of their home crowd.
Duke had a gameplan to score against the zone defense and executed it to near perfection. The Blue Devils hit 15 three pointers. They also used Jabari Parker along to baseline to create high percentage shots. Some of those worked, but more often than not Syracuse successfully challenged those shots and defended the rim very well, totalling 9 blocks.
The Blue Devils should be happy with the way they dealt with the game pressure and adversity they faced in a hostile environment. Both Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson were restricted by foul trouble in the second half and both fouled out before the end of regulation. Rodney Hood and Andre Dawkins played the last few minutes of regulation with 4 fouls, Dawkins ended up fouling out in the closing seconds of overtime.
Duke’s gameplan for overtime was clear from the start, out-shoot the Orange. With both Jefferson and Parker out of the game, Duke had no choice but to go with a small lineup. The Blue Devils were content to give up baskets in the low post, Rodney Hood and Dawkins were the tallest players on the floor. It almost worked.
The game came down to a tough no-call on a Rodney Hood dunk, that if it had gone down, would have been his career highlight to date, but this game was about more than one, possibly, missed call. It was about two historically great programs kicking off the new era of the ACC. And two of the best coaches, and friends, the game has ever seen. The anticipation for the rematch on February 22 in Cameron Indoor couldn’t be higher.
As great as Duke played, the loss drops them to 6-3 in ACC play. The Blue Devils can’t afford to drop any more games if they hope to finish at or near the top of the conference standings. They must regroup emotionally and get ready to play a much improved Wake Forest team on Tuesday in Durham.