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Syracuse Drops Second Straight to Duke in Front of Record Crowd

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Cuse.com
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On Saturday, February 1, the Syracuse Orange (13-9, 6-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) welcomed the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2) to the Carrier Dome in their only matchup of the 2019-2020 regular season. The Blue Devils have gotten the better of the Orange since becoming members of the same conference, but by the slimmest of margins, winning five of nine regular season matchups. 

That margin grew on Saturday, as Duke topped Syracuse 97-88 behind Vernon Carey's 26 points and 17 rebounds. Duke's trips to the Carrier Dome have annually drawn the biggest crowd's in all of college basketball, and that trend continued on Saturday. 31,458 fans packed into the Carrier Dome, marking the largest college basketball crowd in 2019-2020, breaking the mark Syracuse set just last Saturday against Pitt of 23,711. This comes a year after the two teams set the record for the largest on-campus crowd in college basketball history of 35,642 in Duke's win at Syracuse. 

The crowd impact was not lost on the Orange offense, as they came out of the gates buzzing. Syracuse started 4-7 from the field and jumped out to an 11-6 lead after five minutes. Elijah Hughes, the leading scorer in the ACC, fulfilled his duties of pacing the offense, going three for his first four. However, the talent and firepower of the Blue Devils was inevitable. 

With just over ninety seconds remaining in the first half, Syracuse held a 36-34 advantage and had largely weathered the Blue Devil offense to that point. However, that was the last lead the Orange would hold. Duke would go on to score the next six points and head to the locker rooms leading 40-34. Syracuse would go on to trail for the rest of the game. 

Vernon Carey came into the contest averaging about nine rebounds per game, and his threat to the interior of the SU defense was palpable even before tipoff. Syracuse has struggled mightily to find the answer to their interior defensive woes, and Vernon Carey posed the biggest test they would face all season. Not only did he lead both teams in scoring (26 PTS, 9-14 FG in just 28 minutes), but his 17 rebounds tied the record for most rebounds by an opponent in the Carrier Dome. 

Duke would increase their advantage to 15, leading 62-47 with about twelve minutes left in regulation. A pair of three-balls and free throws from Joseph Girard III (17 PTS, 7 AST) and a season-best showing from Marek Dolezaj (22 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST) helped S.U. narrow the deficit to five with about three minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late for the Orange. 

After winning five in a row, this marks the second consecutive Syracuse conference loss as they try desperately to maintain footing in the NCAA Tournament race. With a notably weaker Atlantic Coast Conference this year, the amount of conference bids is bound to decrease, leaving the Orange in a precarious position as they strive to remain relevant in the conversation. Syracuse simply requires another resume boost or two, as their shaky non-conference performance did not do their bubble hopes any favors. 

Their next opportunity comes this Saturday, as they host Wake Forest in their second game of a three-game homestand. Duke, meanwhile, will look for their fourth straight victory in a road test against Boston College Tuesday night.