SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Syracuse/Duke matchup has been hyped for months. That hype intensified in recent weeks, and reached a fever pitch over the last couple of days. When an event receives as much hype as this one did, it generally falls short of expectations. That was not the case on Saturday.
Before a record setting crowd of 35,446, Syracuse won a 91-89 overtime thriller between two of the best teams in the country. The game featured the two winningest coaches of all time and stellar play from both sides.
"The fans were unbelievable," head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game. "When you have a game like this with the buildup, I thought our players were unbelievable in terms of concentrating on Wake Forest and playing down there. Then coming back here.
"It's tough playing three games in seven games with that kind of defensive pressure that they exert for 45 minutes. No matter which team was down, that team made a play."
The crowd aided the Orange early, as Tyler Ennis started by scoring six of Syracuse's first 10 points. C.J. Fair and Trevor Cooney took over from there as Syracuse took a narrow 38-35 lead into halftime.
As much as the back and forth action was thrilling in the opening frame, it was just the beginning.
Fair got hot during a critical stretch that looked like Syracuse was going to pull away from Duke. After pushing the lead to 66-59, the Blue Devils climbed back into it behind three straight Tyler Thornton threes. Jabari Parker then tied it up at 70 with under four minutes left to play.
"C.J. Fair was phenomenal tonight," Boeheim said. "He grew from a good solid player into a great player. He was a great player tonight."
After a Rakeem Christmas free throw gave Syracuse a one point lead, Duke looked to take the final shot and escape with a huge road win. But the Orange defense came up, as Christmas picked up a steal and passed it to Ennis who was immediately fouled.
After two Ennis free throws, Fair whiffed as he tried to foul Rasheed Sulaimon coming up the floor. Sulaimon took a desperation three that went in as the buzzer sounded, and the Carrier Dome crowd was treated to unexpected free basketball.
The overtime was just as thrilling as regulation, this time with Duke jumping out in front but failing to pull away. With Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson foulding out in regulation, Syracuse went inside to Jerami Grant, who had eight points in the extra frame.
"They had their little guards in there and Jerami was able to post-up," Boeheim said. "We got those little buckets in overtime. It was just a great game. I don't think there's been a better game here than I can remember."
After free throw exchanges late, Syracuse found themselves up two with less than six seconds left. Duke had the ball, but the Orange defense stood strong, forcing a wild Quinn Cook shot that ended up nowhere near the rim.
Game over. School record 21-0 start.
Duke was able to stay in the game with 18 offensive rebounds and 15 three pointers. While the Blue Devils attempted 36 shots from beyond the arc, Syracuse only attempted four, making three. Despite giving up so many offensive boards, Syracuse actually won the battle on the glass 38-32.
The Orange shot 57% from the floor, and held Duke to just 43%.
C.J. Fair led the way for the Orange with 28 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Jerami Grant added 24 points and 12 boards including 10-10 from the free throw line. Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney each put in 14 points, with Ennis adding nine assists.
Syracuse has a quick turnaround as they next face Notre Dame on Big Monday inside the Carrier Dome.