Duke Now

Duke still in good position after loss to Syracuse

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski yells to his players in the second half against Syracuse.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski yells to his players in the second half against Syracuse. AP

With three Duke bodies closing in on him, Syracuse guard John Gillon squeezed in the game-winning shot.

He had just eight seconds to find it, banking in a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to upset No. 10 Duke, 78-75.

Duke had allowed teams to shoot just 29.9 percent from deep entering Wednesday’s game at the Carrier Dome, but the Orange hit 54.5 percent of their 3-point shots.

The Blue Devils (22-6, 10-5 ACC) shot 39.1 percent from the floor to Syracuse’s 53.2, while the Orange hit 22 of 25 free throws; three Syracuse players were perfect from the foul line.

The visitors shot more than 30 3-pointers against Syracuse for the second straight year.

But Wednesday’s setback for Duke was far from an actual step backward.

The Orange (17-12, 9-7) snapped Duke’s seven-game winning streak and got a bit closer to their NCAA aspirations, but Duke, playing two of its final three regular-season games on the road, is already there.

“First of all, we’re in the tournament,” Duke coach Krzyzewski said. “They’re trying to get in, and hopefully they are in it. During this time, you’re gonna face teams that inherently should be hungrier than you, and you have to be as hungry. That’s a challenge.”

Freshman Jayson Tatum helped carry the Blue Devils in the first half, which they led 33-25. He worked the middle of Syracuse’s signature zone, showing little intimidation as he led with 14 points at the break, scoring eight in his first eight minutes. He finished with 19 on 8-of-17 shooting.

Tatum’s dirty work inside, though, led to a game-high 13 rebounds.

He didn’t score in the second half until 11:24 remained. Fellow rookie Harry Giles (six points, four boards in 11 minutes) tipped a miss out to Matt Jones, saving the possession where Tatum found a 3-pointer to break up a 49-49 tie.

On the other end, Gillon shouldered his way around Tatum for the answer as Duke played without veterans Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, who were both in foul trouble.

Within a span of 49 seconds at 14:17 in the second, Kennard, Allen and senior Matt Jones picked up individual fouls. Allen’s put Tyus Battle at the line for tying free throws.

There were five lead changes in the final 3:26 in Duke’s second closest loss of the year: The Blue Devils lost by two, respectively, to Kansas on Nov. 15 and N.C. State on Jan. 23.

Duke beat three ranked team during its seven-game winning streak that ended at Syracuse. After falling to No. 21 in the polls following the N.C. State loss, it had elevated back into the top 10.

The Blue Devils are still balanced, as three of them finished in double figures Wednesday, Kennard’s team-high 23 and Jefferson’s 14 adding to Tatum’s production on a night where Allen went 2-for-11 with eight points.

Two of Duke’s three regular-season games remaining are on the road.

“It’s a tough league,” Jefferson said. “This is the best league in the country, and we can’t let up because we go down to Miami in 48 hours and play a really good Miami team, a hungry Miami team.

“We have to move on.”

Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan