The rematch between Duke and Syracuse on Saturday night was one of the most hyped college basketball games in recent years. After the instant classic in the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago no one could wait to see what kind of game would take place in Cameron Indoor.
Saturday night’s game provided just as much intensity and excitement as the first and saw Duke avenge their loss to the Orange in dramatic fashion.
Many will only remember the controversial call in the closing seconds, but the game was about much more than one close (but correct) charge call. Duke bounced back from a disheartening loss to former rival, North Carolina (wink wink) to end a tough stretch of four games in eight days, three in the last five.
After the loss to North Carolina, Coach Mike Krzyzewski said that the young Blue Devils team lacked “it” in the second half of the game. He never said what “it” was, but it seemed to be some combination of toughness and focus. Duke somehow found “it” at some point between Thursday and Saturday night.
Duke did a great job of attacking the zone. In the previous matchup the Blue Devils combated the Orange zone with a barrage of three point shots. On Saturday, Duke ran their offense through the middle of the zone, mostly with Rodney Hood. Hood’s versatility and efficiency made him a great focal point of the offense. Hood found ways to score and distribute while working the middle of the zone. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Jabari Parker had another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Parker continued his aggressive play, but also seemed to find his jump shot again. Jabari made all three of his three point attempts.
Possibly the greatest positive coming out of the game and going forward is Marshall Plumlee. The sophomore center had the best game of his career against Syracuse. Plumlee had 4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 assist in 19 minutes. Plumlee figured to play even more, but missed the majority of the second half suffering from cramps. If Plumlee can continue to provide rim protection and rebounding, and an aggressive mentality, it could mean a lot to this team in March.
Quinn Cook played 23 minutes off the bench against Syracuse. While he did not shoot the ball at a high percentage, he did knock down a couple of big shots and, more importantly, did not have a single turnover. Cook, Thornton, and Sulaimon all had a great game defensively. The Blue Devils had one of their best games of the season on the defensive end, particularly with ball pressure on the perimeter. Syracuse guards Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney combined for just 13 points on 3-18 shooting, including 0-5 from beyond the arc. That was the difference in the game.
Coach K used a shorter bench for the second game in a row, which seems odd at the end of the tiring set of games this week. Josh Hairston didn’t play again, Matt Jones didn’t check in at all, and Andre Dawkins only logged 8 minutes of game action, he was noticeably absent from the game in the second half against North Carolina, as well. It will be interesting to see how the coaches divide the minutes as we inch closer to the postseason.
Duke will host Virginia Tech on Tuesday before having 8 days off to rest up and prepare to close the ACC regular season against Wake Forest and North Carolina.