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(Photo by Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 18 vs Syracuse

Duke Basketball
A.J. Griffin had 15 points was 5-for-8 from 3-point range for the Blue Devils against Syracuse. Duke Basketball was firing on all cylinders on Saturday, trouncing Syracuse 79-59 in a win much larger than the score indicates. (Photo by Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 18 vs Syracuse

Duke Basketball was in need of a convincing win, and they got it in the form of a complete 79-59 dismantling of Syracuse on Saturday. The Blue Devils (15-3, 5-2 ACC) picked apart the Orange’s patented zone, with four players recording 15 points. On the other end of the floor, Wendell Moore Jr. and Jeremy Roach led an incredible charge in stifling Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad was firing on all cylinders, a good sign in light of freshman guard Trevor Keels’ absence.

Duke opened the game with a rather prototypical four-minute run, snagging an early 11-2 lead before the first media timeout. Then, just as quickly as the Blue Devils had extended the lead to 10, Syracuse quickly clawed back to cut it to one. From there on, however, Coach K’s side kicked into first gear and never looked back. The performances of Moore and Roach, coupled with the frontcourt of A.J. Griffin, Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero, were simply too much for an overmatched Syracuse squad.

It was a day in which the Blue Devils’ talent was just greater than the opponent and despite the 20-point margin, the victory was much larger than the score indicates.

Blue Devils had 15 turnovers, but primary playmakers Moore and Roach combined for two

The Achilles heel for this Duke squad has been turnovers. Marks of 17 and 15 in losses against Miami and Florida State, respectively, were too much for the Blue Devils to compensate for. The Orange forced the same number of turnovers, but Moore and Roach only turned it over once each.

The former’s recent struggles were clearly hampering his confidence of late, but against Syracuse, Moore looked like he was having fun again. Some of that inevitably comes when you’re on the good side of a drubbing, but his exploits at the top of the key and in the middle of the zone opened up the game. Moore’s stat line of 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds, serves as indication once again that when he is on, this Duke squad is at their best – evident by the collective 25 assists on 30 made shots.

Couple the junior’s performance with Roach’s nine-assist, six-point day and the result speak volumes. Roach, who made way for Griffin in the starting lineup earlier in the month, has been a calming presence both on and off the ball. With Coach K saying Keels’ injury isn’t expected to be long-term, but still doubting his availability for the Clemson game on Tuesday, Roach will have another opportunity to impress the coaching staff.

“Just coming in and being locked in,” said Roach of rejoining the starting lineup. “Trevor [Keels] went down, so it’s next man up. It’s not like I’m not used to starting so, I came in and accepted my role and just did everything I needed to win the game today.”

VIA Duke Athletics/goduke.com

Duke shooters light it up

If you can work the ball into the middle of Syracuse’s zone, the whole court opens up. It’s how teams at all levels attack zones; it’s how team’s attack the Orange. And that’s how Duke blew out Syracuse in Cameron Indoor.

The best shooter on the team, Griffin, had a field day from beyond the arc. The Archbishop Stepinac product was 5-for-9 from deep in a 15-point performance. He opened the game with two 3-pointers and enjoyed acres of space on the wings and in the corners. Jim Boeheim was frequently the victim of a quick camera pan showing his frustration at the late recoveries in finding Griffin in space.

“AJ is our best shooter and I’d really like for him to be more aggressive,” said Krzyzewski. “I think AJ keeps it really simple. He’s a really easy guy to play with because he keeps spacing, he plays defense, he makes simple passes, and today he did a really good job on [Cole] Swider, that perimeter is a very difficult guard.”

VIA Duke Athletics/goduke.com

Equally as important was senior Joey Baker’s ability to stretch the floor. Baker, who came into the game shooting 40% from 3-point range on the season, had 11 points while shooting 3-for-6 from distance. As a team, the Blue Devils connected on a season-high 14 3-pointers at a 37.8% clip in the game.

Duke was a benefactor of open looks from dribble penetration and quick ball movement, so it’s naive to expect a performance like this from distance every game. However, shooting is contagious and if Griffin, Baker and company can continue their prolific shooting, this team will continue to be a tough out on any night.

Defense holds strong

Moore put Buddy Boeheim through 40 minutes of hell on Saturday. The Syracuse guard came into the game averaging 19.2 ppg. Moore, who frequently blew up ball screens and continually forced highly contested jumpers, held Boeheim to 2-for-15 shooting, notably 1-for-10 from deep, and seven points – really five if you discount the pair of free throws in garbage time when Moore was cheering from the bench.

Roach also tormented the aforementioned Girard, who chose Syracuse over Duke as a high school senior. The Blue Devil hounded his opponent all night, in a lot of similar ways to Moore’s performance against Boeheim. Girard was 3-for-13 from the field, 1-for-9 from 3-point range, tallying seven points in 30 minutes of action.

“Our main thing was just to run them off the three-point line,” said Moore. “Especially with this team here. Their two guards, Joe Girard and Buddy Boeheim, are two of the best shooters we have in our conference, two of the best scorers we have so basically on the perimeter we knew we had to come locked in early and it started with myself and Jeremy [Roach] – with those two assignments we knew we needed to win that matchup.”

VIA Duke Athletics/goduke.com

As a squad, the Blue Devils held the second-highest scoring offense in the ACC and a 37.9% shooting team from beyond the arc, to 35.3% shooting from the field and 5-for-29 from 3-point range. After several tough bouts where Duke Basketball was a possession or two away from victory, the Blue Devils owned both ends of the floor against the Orange. Onto Clemson.

***

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