Minutes into the game, the Orange turned the ball over at half court. A split second later, Duke Freshman phenom Zion Williamson scooped up the loose change and elevated for a thunderous slam in front of the Syracuse bench. That highlight from Williamson, who finished with 29 points (13-13 FG) on the night, put the Orange behind the eight ball in what would end up an 84-72 loss to the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
“We really got off to a slow start, their defense suffocated us. They were very agressive,” Coach Boeheim said.
Syracuse was ice cold for much of the first half, but ended the opening frame on an 8-0 scoring run. That cut the Duke lead down to six points at the break. That momentum carried over to the second half, which kept the heavy Duke at bay for the middle part of the game.
Things got away from the Orange in the second half when they went cold from the field. SU didn’t make a field goal for a stretch of more than five minutes than included three media timeouts. That’s not going to get it done against the Blue Devils. Even with that run, Jim Boeheim’s team was right there down the stretch of the game.
As you’d expect, Syracuse fans were far outnumbered at the Spectrum Center in the heart of ACC Country. The amount of Duke fans in the crowd was made clear when Williamson and his teammates put on a dunking show in the first ten minutes of the game. At that point, it was hard to see a game where the Orange competed for sixty minutes without Tyus Battle for the second consecutive game.
Frank Howard, who has been under the microscope as of late, put together one of his best games of the season. The senior finished with a team-high 28 points. Without his gutsy performance, the Orange likely would have never made it a tight game in the second half. The problem though, was the lack of production from Buddy Boeheim. After the comeback win against Pitt on Wednesday, Orange players credited the second half surge to Boeheim. He improved as the game went on, but was almost non-existent in the first half.
On a more negative note for Frank, this tweet circulated in the second half:
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) March 15, 2019
After the game, Boeheim said there’s nothing to see in that video. Says people are trying to manufacture something out of nothing.
Syracuse awaits Selection Sunday coming up this weekend. Most outlets have the Orange firmly in the big dance and project them in the seeding range of 8 through 11.