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Benny Williams shines in blowout loss to Duke

Syracuse’s Benny Williams (#13, white) dribbles one-on-one with Duke’s Joey Baker (#13, blue).
Syracuse’s Benny Williams (#13, white) dribbles one-on-one with Duke’s Joey Baker (#13, blue).

Syracuse’s Benny Williams had a breakout performance against Duke. WAER’s Carson Gambaro highlights the freshman’s biggest plays against the Blue Devils.

Most of the buzz heading into Syracuse vs. Duke last night revolved around college basketball’s elder statesmen. The contest was set to be, barring a coincidental postseason collision, the final meeting between the NCAA’s two winningest coaches: Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski.

However, once the Orange (15-14, 9-9 ACC) and Blue Devils (25-4, 15-3 ACC) hit the floor, the youngsters began to take over. Freshmen A.J. Griffin and Paolo Banchero scored the game’s first two buckets, setting the tone for what would quickly become a rout of the ‘Cuse.

Griffin and Banchero each contributed over 20 points to Duke’s 97-72 victory over Syracuse. However, they weren’t the only first year players to make an impact. One of their 2021 Jordan Classic all-star teammates wasn’t about to be left out.

S.U. found itself in a 22-6 hole with just over 13 minutes remaining in the first half. That’s when Coach Boeheim dug into the reserves. Among his first subs was Benny Williams, the program’s lone recruit from the class of 2021.

90 seconds passed, and Syracuse was only sinking deeper. That’s when Jimmy Boeheim shoveled a bounce pass to Williams, who came steaming in from the left corner. Benny looked like he wanted to slam dunk it from there, but quickly noticed Banchero and Joey Baker closing in. The 6’8” forward then leapt over the paint, around the pair of defenders, and swirled the ball off the glass and into the hoop.

Benny Williams (#13, white) airborne en route to a reverse layup against Duke.
Benny Williams (#13, white) airborne en route to a reverse layup against Duke.

After an ensuing Duke turnover, the 4-star recruit struck again. This time, Williams was playing iso ball against Baker. Benny maneuvered inside, planted his right foot at the left elbow, and floated up a swish on the fadeaway.

Of all ballers wearing white last night, it was Benny who would dazzle the season-high Dome crowd of nearly 32,000. Williams, who featured in last year’s Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, showcased his raw talent in front of A.I. himself.

Those back-to-back field goals were far too little to shift the tide. But they did manage to light a fire inside the Loud House.

The Maryland native entered the primetime fiesta averaging just barely a point per contest. Against the #7 team in the country, though, he emerged with a career-high 14 on 5-of-7 from the floor. Compare that to his previous best of 7 all the way back in November against Colgate.

Williams also added a team-high 6 boards in his first game receiving 30+ minutes of playing time. For the IMG academy grad, the off-court learning process is doing its job.

“Coach says what happens in practice translates to the game, and I can definitely see that,” said Williams after the game.

Not only did Benny notice his learning curve on display, but so did his Hall of Fame head coach.

“It’s a big learn…he’s getting there,” Boeheim said. “I think he’s started to turn a corner a little bit.”

Was this game a sign of things to come? Or was it a mere diamond in the rough?

Williams and S.U. have just two more games in the regular season to provide a short-term answer. First up, a road date with North Carolina tomorrow night. How will Benny feature in the gameplan against the Tar Heels? Only one way to find out…

We’ll have full game coverage both on 88.3 FM and right here on Follow along as Syracuse stakes its final claim for a Quad 1 win beginning at 6:30 with GZA Countdown to Tipoff.