‘Cuse at Duke: Final Thoughts

After the controversy, number crunch and a night to sleep on it, John Garcia Jr. gives his final thoughts on taking in one of the most talked about games of the college basketball season.

1.The Gameplan: Syracuse was burned by their normal zone in the first meeting with the sharp-shooters from Duke, and wasn't going to let it happen again. It extended the zone beyond the three-point line and packed it in underneath, allowing for the point-man in the middle to be the decision-maker. When it was Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, SU had early success in creating turnovers and bad shot attempts, ultimately helping to jump out to the game-high nine point lead it enjoyed in the first half. But Coack K adjusted, and had Rodney Hood take over the duties, eventually, and the Orange had no answer for him as a scorer, passer or shooter – especially once Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita notched four fouls early in half No. 2.

2.The Guardplay: Neither team's guards matched the impact from the first game. Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney were held in check offensively (a combined 3-for-18 from the field, 13 total points) by suffocating Duke pressure at the mid-court for most of the game, and Duke's group of Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon never really got going, either (17 combined points). After the game, it was Sulaimon that Jim Boeheim admitted was one of the Orange's biggest worries, for his play-making ability in the lane, which he thought SU did a good job at defending. The SU combo did notch six assists and steals, however.

3.Parker Produced: Though most likely over-hyped and possibly over-valued heading into the NBA next season, Jabari Parker made some of the biggest plays he's made as a college hooper on Saturday. Not only did he pace either team in points (19) or rebounds (10), but he made all three shots he attempted from deep -- though Boeheim admitted that was the shot the SU defense wanted the freshman to take -- and made some tough rebounds in the process, including late. Parker did disappear at times, but he was one of Duke's best in crunch time, and the home team needed it on this night.

4.Gbinije-OK: Duke transfer Mike Gbinije heard it from the crowd when he went to the line for his first two points of the night, as the Cameron Crazies chanted, "We don't miss you!" -- but he delivered anyway. He sunk both free throws, swished a three on the next possession and hit another from deep later on. His eight point night was complimented with a pair of rebounds and two steals against his former team. As Boeheim alluded to after the game, his continued emergence could be a big-time factor for the Orange come tournament time.

5.Grant as a 5?: Syracuse has had to play Jerami Grant in the middle before, with injuries and foul trouble, but it seemed like he was a bit out of place in doing so on Saturday. Once Christmas and Keita were called for their fourth foul, Duke expectedly attacked and had success against the wing standout. After the game, Grant said he's used to it by now, but it was a noted weakness for the Orange in a game in which every possession was critical. The game tape should help the unit learn from Saturday's troubles going forward.


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