DURHAM — Duke bounced back from a loss to blow out Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium, beating the Orange 79-59 on Saturday.
The Blue Devils were coming off of a midweek loss to Florida State, on the road in overtime, which had dropped Duke to 2-2 in the last four games.
Duke made short work of Syracuse’s zone defense, hitting 14 3-pointers, the most by the Blue Devils since Dec. 16 and more than they’ve made in any two back-to-back games since then.
Freshman A.J. Griffin led the way with five shots from beyond the 3-point arc in nine attempts. Griffin hit his first two treys, scoring the first six points of the game, as Duke jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. The Blue Devils never trailed and continued their recent trend of going on a run around the halftime break. Duke scored the last five points of the first half to pull to a 14-point lead at halftime, then opened the second half with a 14-7 run.
Syracuse missed seven straight shots in the minutes surrounding halftime, while Duke made four straight early in the second half.
“For a few minutes there in the second half, I thought it’s the best we’ve played,” said coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We coupled really good defense with some outstanding offense.”
Duke also continued a trend of moving the ball well. The Blue Devils assisted on all 13 made shots in the first half and on 25 of 30 shots for the game. Many made shots came after multiple passes to help locate seams in the Syracuse zone.
“It looked like the Hurricanes playing,” Krzyzewski said. “We had a lot of hockey assists.”
Duke also shared scoring responsibility. Griffin was one of four Blue Devils to lead the way with 15 points, joining Wendell Moore Jr., Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams. Moore also had eight assists, second on the team to Jeremy Roach’s nine.
“We’ve had adversity since Christmas and we’re getting better but these kids have had to overcome a lot,” Coach K said. “Today our defense and the way we shared the ball was outstanding. We had a great desire to win — it was beautiful to watch.”
Roach rejoined the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the last week and a half. A spot opened for him when Trevor Keels was ruled out of the game after suffering a leg injury against Florida State earlier in the week.
“Hopefully we can get Trevor back soon,” Krzyzewski said “He’s responded really well, MRI and everything. I don’t know if he’ll be ready for Tuesday, but I don’t think it’ll be long-term.”
In addition to his scoring and passing, Moore also led Duke’s defensive effort against Syracuse’s leading scorer, Buddy Boeheim. Averaging 19.2 points per game, Boeheim scored just seven points on 2-of-15 shooting, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
“This is the first game in league play that we just haven’t been there,” said Syracuse coach, and Buddy’s father, Jim Boeheim. “They were just better than us today, for sure.”
Duke improved to 15-3 and tied for second in the conference with a 5-2 record. Syracuse fell below .500 on the season, at 9-10, and is 3-5 in conference.