DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke-Syracuse hasn’t yet grown into the classic ACC rivalry some envisioned it would when the teams played an epic overtime thriller in their first meeting as conference foes in 2014.
First place in the conference was not at stake during the Orange's 64-62 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but two teams just a notch above desperate forged a tough game.
A few observations:
What if? Had Grayson Allen's basket counted at the end of the first half, Duke and Syracuse might have gone to overtime. Allen took an inbounds pass with three seconds left and went from the baseline to just inside the 3-point line, making a shot as the buzzer sounded. Upon further review, the basket was waved off.
Experience matters: Michael Gbinije and fellow senior guard Trevor Cooney might not be the best backcourt in the nation, but they will keep the Orange in many games to come. They don’t get rattled, even in the hostile confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. They don’t let poor starts affect them, either. Cooney didn’t make a shot from inside the 3-point line but finished with 14 points thanks to four 3-pointers.
Rebounding woes: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski lamented the Blue Devils’ rebounding problems after their loss to Notre Dame. Things got even worse against the Orange. Syracuse grabbed a season-high 26 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points. Orange forward Tyler Roberson accounted for 12 of those offensive boards as he totaled 20 rebounds for the game. It seemed at times the loudest cheers from the crowd came when Duke would secure a rebound.
Whatever happened to playing through it? Both Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim have essentially stuck to seven-man rotations in conference play, but it’s not because they don’t have the players to go deeper. Kaleb Joseph, a sophomore point guard, started 30 games for the Orange last season. Though he has played in 17 games this season, he is averaging just 6.6 minutes per game. Joseph has fallen so far out of favor that he wasn't even put into the game when Gbinije picked up his third foul in the first half.
Moment of levity: During a dead ball in the first half, Boeheim chatted with officials, believing that Tyler Lydon was fouled. It appeared that Lydon was poked in the eye, but nothing was called. The exchange with the referees prompted the student section at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the site of a Boeheim meltdown two seasons ago, to relive the moment:
Boeheim was ejected for running on the floor while arguing a charge call with 10 seconds left during Syracuse's 66-60 loss to the Blue Devils on Feb. 22, 2014. Before he erupted, he nearly tossed his blazer while yelling at official Tony Greene.
On Monday night, Duke’s students chanted, “Take your coat off,” and for a moment Boeheim cracked a smile and sheepishly grabbed his coat as if he were going to lose his cool again.
School of hard knocks: Talk about on-the-job training. Duke freshman point guard Derryck Thornton has had to go against some of the conference’s best. On Saturday, he chased around Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson. On Monday, it was Gbinije. Thornton is generally undersized and is still figuring out his way defensively, but he brought some energy offensively in keeping the Blue Devils in the game when the Orange took a five-point lead late. Thornton made a 3-pointer and got an offensive rebound on another possession that led to a Brandon Ingram tip-in.