The Orange Men's Basketball team is done dancing after a tense matchup with No. 2 seed Duke, ending with a final score of 69 - 65. All hopes of an upset to parallel Syracuse’s 2016 run to the Final Four were dashed as the Blue Devils pulled ahead in the second half of Friday’s game.
Both teams appeared evenly matched for the duration of the first half. No. 11 seed Syracuse made eight of their first 12 shots, getting out to a 17 - 14 lead early in the game.
Duke once again found success in its newly employed zone defense, jus recently utilized by the Blue Devils this season. The Orange began to falter towards the end of the first half and couldn’t quite get the momentum back. Duke went on a 10-0 run to close the half, going into intermission leading 34-17.
Though Syracuse never trailed Duke by more than 9 points, the Orange couldn’t pull ahead in the second half. Powerhouse Marvin Bagley III scored 18 of his 22 points, maneuvering through the tough zone defense Syracuse so heavily relied on to win the previous two games against No. 3 seed Michigan State and No. 6 seed TCU.
Between Duke making twice as many free throws and Syracuse losing 16 turnovers, the game really came down to technicalities with Duke taking more shots. Tyus Battle lead the Orange with 19 points but his strong shooting wasn’t enough, even though the orange settled down in the second half.
“We turned the ball over a little too much in the first half," said Battle after the game. "We got it together in the second half and took care of the ball a little better and got it into the middle."
Two other Oreange players were in double figures. Oshae Brissett had 15, while fellow freshman Marek Dolezaj had 13. Frank Howard finished with 8 point, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Syracuse’s fate was all but sealed as Gary Trent Jr. made two free throws with just seconds left on the clock, widening the point disparity just enough so even one last three point attempt couldn’t save the Orange. Duke will continue to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Midwest Region Finals.
The season has come to an end for Syracuse, whose 2018 March Madness run was nothing short of shocking from the get-go. Coach Jim Boeheim pointed out that what the Orange has accomplished is nothing to scoff at.
"To be able to beat the teams we've beaten and to play the defense the way we've played it -- four teams in a row don't shoot bad," said Boeheim. "These guys deserve an awful lot of credit. I'm really proud of these guys."
Coach Boeheim, the team and Orange fans can look ahead to next season, when all of the contributing players could be back. Tyus Battle is expected to test the waters with the NBA draft, going to workouts to see if he'd be selected. Freshmen Brissett and Dolezaj improved during the season. Backup center Bourama Sidibe plans to have surgery for a knee injury that slowed him all season.