It was a second half to forget for the Orange, who were down by just two at the break to Duke before getting boat raced in the second half. The Blue Devils caught fire after the half, and after not making a single three in the first, went 8-8 in the second half. Kyle Filipowski was important as well, and after he did not play a lot in the first half due to foul trouble, he was a matchup nightmare for the Orange in the second frame. It was clearly a night of growing pains for Syracuse, who probably needed a game like this to remotivate after riding high for nearly a month at this point. On the bright side, Maliq Brown played the offensive game of his life with 26 points on 11-16 from the field and 1-2 from three but did not get much help besides Judah Mintz’s 18 (the rest of the team combined for 22). It was an exciting first half but an anti-climatic second half as the Blue Devils raced away. Let’s see how everyone graded out.
Adrian Autry: B
It was a really weird first half, and Autry once again deserves a lot of credit for a short turnaround on the road, getting his team ready to play. Yes, they benefitted from there not being students at the game, but Autry did what he’s done all season, make the right substitutions. If something is not working, identify it and make the switch, yet if someone makes a mistake, don’t yank them unless it’s egregious (like McLeod at the start of the second half). The one questionable decision was matching up Justin Taylor on Kyle Filipowski, which continually did not work as long as Flip was not in foul trouble. But, all throughout the TV broadcast, Autry was getting praise from Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg all night long, and his team plays like him: tough, passionate, and always giving 110% effort. The second half was tough as it felt like no matter the combination of wings he put in the game, he didn’t get much from any of them scoring the ball, which is not a recipe for Syracuse to be successful.
Judah Mintz: B
Mintz was good, but not great in the first half. He had his typical moments, like silly turnovers and complaining after not getting calls, but also got to the basket, got Duke’s bigs in foul trouble, and was hitting from mid-range. He had his ups and downs, but he was scoring when Syracuse needed him to, which kept the Orange in the game. It’s hard to quantify Mintz’s performance because his highs are so high and his lows are so low, like when he takes a pull-up three with 18 seconds left on the shot clock and it glances off the front of the rim, versus going up strong against a big man in the paint and finishing or getting to the line, what he does is invaluable, you just have to live with it.
J.J. Starling: C
It was a very quiet first half for Starling, who was solid and did not do anything to help or hurt his grade. He hit one three but missed another. He was smart with the ball, played good defense, and helped on the boards, but did not do anything that was super memorable. To start the second half Starling kept Syracuse in the game to an extent, hitting a couple of mid-range jumpers and looking really confident while doing it. That is the kind of player Syracuse needs as a secondary scorer because Mintz cannot have that big of a burden to try and put the ball in the basket on every possession.
Chris Bell: F
Another game where Bell was not efficient or seem ready for the moment. He is not great defensively because of his weight and strength and offensively is not great at putting the ball on the floor or making decisions that are not catch-and-shoot. He also got into foul trouble on some not-great choices, which impacts his grade here. He started the second half by getting a chance in transition to make a play which he turned into a turnover, along with not getting back on defense and pouting after it. Autry won’t stand for that. Against mid-majors, he was much more aggressive, but now in conference play, it is not as easy to get into the lane or find open looks, and he’s struggling with that right now.
Justin Taylor: C
I feel bad for Taylor because he is being asked to do things that are not contributing to his success, both individually and for the team. At the beginning of the game he was matched up with Kyle Filipowski, a 7-foot All-American, that is not a matchup he is going to be successful in no matter how physical or hard he plays. Working so hard defensively and on the boards has contributed to some offensive struggles, and without many looks to get into a rhythm, he’s struggled on that end of the floor.
Naheem McLeod: F
McLeod is likely going to continue to start for the Orange, but him playing more than 10 minutes in any game is far from a guarantee at this point. He’s not handling physicality well, has a hard time moving on defense, and when he got the ball on offense he was indecisive or did not get the pass from the guards on the outside. Maliq Brown is undersized, but clearly the better option at the big man position for Syracuse on both ends of the floor right now, as evidenced by McLeod picking up a foul on an illegal screen on the first possession of the second half and immediately getting the hook.
Maliq Brown: A
He is without a doubt the team’s most consistent player. Early in the game he ran the floor and finished at the basket, and then later in the first half he was aggressive in the paint and matching the physicality of Duke’s bigs. He did a great job of making himself available on entry passes, catching them (unlike the starting center), and finishing. Defensively, it was tough because when Syracuse switched ball screens, he often got matched up with guards that made life tough on him. But, he rebounded well, and was a spark off the bench, as he always is. He might be approaching the record for two-handed dunks in a season with how many he had in that game, but despite his offensive effort, it was not enough.
Quadir Copeland: C
He got a little trigger-happy in the first half, and after hitting his first three of the night, went cold for the rest of the period. But, even though he was not shooting well, he was doing his usual things: looking for teammates, rebounding, playing good defense, and pushing the pace. Those are things that Bell was not doing, and a reason that Copeland is soaring up the minutes per game list on the season-long stats. Tuesday was not his night, as he just was not on the same page as his teammates a lot, and turned the ball over way too much. He’s invaluable, and what he does contributes more to winning than a lot of other people, which is why he plays a lot.
Benny Williams: B-
In the first half, Williams did not get as many minutes as one would think considering the height and mass of Duke, plus how Mark Mitchell was dominating in the paint. In his limited time, he rebounded well and was playing above the rim. But, on the road, his offensive game is especially limited, and with scoring at a premium, Taylor and Bell got more chances because of their higher upsides on that end of the floor. He got some run in the middle of the second half, but that did not make much of an impact as Duke took control of the game.