SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Michael Gbinije come out firing in the first half, netting 19 points and leading the Orange to a 39-36 halftime advantage. Ultimately, it wasn't enough as the Blue Devils escaped the Carrier Dome with a 80-72 win.
Syracuse (16-9, 7-5) led throughout most of the first 20 minutes, including being up by as many as 11, but Duke (22-3, 9-3) climbed back behind three-pointers from Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow off of blown defensive rotations.
Rakeem Christmas battled some early foul trouble, and Syracuse was forced to go with redshirt freshman Chinonso Obokoh for a few minutes to avoid a third on Rak. But the Orange survived that and headed into the locker room with that three point lead, much to the delight of the raucous 35,446 in attendance.
"I thought it was a great atmosphere," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "It was a great game. I thought we played as well as we can offensively. Mike had a huge first half. Tyler had his best day here."
Duke came out firing in the second half as Jahlil Okafor and Quinn Cook led a 13-2 run that put the Blue Devils in control. Syracuse made a couple of charges in the second half, but could not get closer than six the rest of the way.
"I thought we broke down defensively a little bit to start the second half," Boeheim said. "We gave them a couple open looks and they're a tremendous basketball team. They knocked down a couple big threes and we didn't cover back well in the lane a couple times. They made great plays."
Late in the game, Syracuse had chances to make things very interested. Down six, Trevor Cooney missed a three in transition and Tyler Roberson missed two shots at the free throw line. Rakeem Christmas also missed several chances around the rim in the second half.
"I thought we played well," Boeheim said. "We didn't do a couple of things defensively that we needed to do. Other than that, I thought we gave it everything we had. I thought we played well. It was a great crowd. A great day."
WHAT WE LIKED: Michael Gbinije was about as hot as a player can get in the first half, scoring 19 points including 5-6 from beyond the arc on his way to a career high 27. He was a big reason why Syracuse raced out to an 11-point lead. He continued his stellar play over the last four games. The energy inside the Carrier Dome was fantastic. It was a great atmosphere, one that few venues can match for big games. Roberson played with a lot of energy, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE: Rakeem Christmas was disappointing. He played hard, but shot the ball poorly and was kept in check on the offensive end. He lost the individual battle with Jahlil Okafor. Christmas finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks on just 5-17 shooting. It was the second straight subpar performance from the senior center. While Roberson had a strong game, he finished just 3-7 from the free-throw line, including some critical misses down the stretch.
KEY MOMENT: Syracuse was down by eight when Christmas hit a mid-range jumper with just under five minutes left. Gbinije stole a pass seconds later and found Trevor Cooney open for a three in transition that would have the cut it down to a one possession game. He air-balled the shot and the would not get closer than four the rest of the game.
QUOTABLE: "He was a little outside and then he didn't get by. He just didn't quite get to the basket. He had some good looks and the ball just didn't go down for him there."
-- Jim Boeheim on Rakeem Christmas' struggles
"They're doubling Rak and they're leaving him. He's got to take the ball to the basket when he can and he did it. He had a tremendous game of being able to get there and get in the lane and finish around the basket. He can do that."
-- Jim Boeheim on Tyler Roberson
"He's a tremendous player. He'll be the first pick in the draft. He's got the best footwork of any guy that I've seen. They did a great job of finding him against the zone down there and he's a great finisher around the basket. We got him involved in ball screens and that's why Mike got some of those looks in the first half. We just weren't consistent enough."
-- Jim Boeheim on Jahlil Okafor
STATS OF THE DAY: Okafor dominated inside for Duke with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He outclassed Christmas all game. Duke also won the rebounding battle 42-32. Duke shot 47% from beyond the arc compared to just 36% for Syracuse. Duke also finished 19-22 from the free throw line while Syracuse hit just six of their 13 attempts.
NOTES: The crowd of 35,446 tied an on campus record for college basketball, matching the attendance for last season’s Syracuse/Duke matchup.
Jim Boeheim Post-Game Video: