Despite shooting struggles, Duke survives Syracuse to set up showdown with Kansas | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / July 15.
  • Despite shooting struggles, Duke survives Syracuse to set up showdown with Kansas

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    OMAHA, Neb. — Duke’s Grayson Allen couldn’t buy a bucket. All night long, Syracuse fans behind press row were encouraging the senior guard to attempt a shot whenever he had the ball in his hands.

    But, good for Allen and the Blue Devils, they have one of the best college basketball players in recent memory on their side in Marvin Bagley. 

    The 6-foot-11 freshman phenom dropped a game-high 22 points with 9 rebounds and surpassed current Milwaukee Buck Jabari Parker for the freshman single-season scoring record as No. 2 Duke fended off No. 11 Syracuse, 69-65, in a Midwest Region Sweet 16 here. Duke will face No. 1 Kansas at 5:o5 p.m. ET on Sunday after the Jayhawks knocked off No. 5 Clemson, 80-76.

    Bagley was the star but contributions from Allen (15 points), Gary Trent Jr., and Wendell Carter Jr., who scored 14 points apiece, were the difference in the end for the Blue Devils.

    “We just find a good look,” Allen said of staying patient on offense. “We did a great job of moving the ball around. And really with Dell and Marvin in the middle there, when they were flashing up, they made great decisions finding open guys, and even hitting the shot in the middle which isn’t an easy shot because you have everyone around you. And they finished at the basket strong. Really just getting strong passes in there and then great plays by the bigs in the middle there is what allowed us to be successful.”

    Despite his struggles on the offensive end, Allen dished out 8 assists including a beautiful lob to Bagley from near half court for the alley-oop slam.

    “We practiced it all week,” Bagley said of the numerous alley-oop attempts. “We try to look for different things and different ways to score against that zone and we did a great job at that and got the win.”


    The Orange were led by Tyus Battle’s 19 and Oshae Brissett’s 15 points. Syracuse, the No. 11 seed in the Midwest region, played with basically seven guys the whole year and the lack of depth hurt them in the end.

    “Obviously, with this group, I think that sometimes we forget that we had seven guys and one of them has got a bad knee,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “So for these guys to do what they’ve done, I think it’s an amazing thing.”

    Throughout the second half, the game was decided by runs as Duke would take a seven or eight-point lead then Syracuse would stick around and make things interesting. The Orange cut the gap to one early in the second 20 minutes but couldn’t get over the hump.

    The turnover plague hit Boeheim’s team hard as it coughed it up 12 times in the opening frame and 16 for the whole contest. In addition to not taking care of the rock, Syracuse was 4-of-13 (31 percent) from three and couldn’t hit a clutch shot when needed.

    “We didn’t play anywhere near as good as we can play tonight,” Boeheim said. “We missed shots, wide open shots in the second half. Ty had one, Oshae had one when it was a two-, three-point game. So we missed shots as well.”

    For the first time all tournament, the Orange gave up 60+ plus points and were unable to stifle the opponent’s defense enough to come out on top.

    “But what these guys have accomplished, I don’t think you can give them enough credit to be able to beat the teams we’ve beaten and played the defense the way we’ve played it,” said Boeheim.

    With the victory, Duke will make its 15th Elite Eight appearance and has a chance to reach its 13th Final Four with head coach Mike Krzyzewski at the helm. A win on Sunday would break Coach K’s tie with John Wooden for most career Final Fours.

    “This was a hell of a basketball game and we’re ecstatic about going to the Elite Eight,” Coach K stated.

    Photo: @DukeMBB

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