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Jonathan M. Alexander | The News & Observer | March 21, 2018

Why Duke had a hard time scoring on Cuse last time they played

DURHAM, N.C. โ€” Duke and Syracuse will match up for the second time this season in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Omaha, Neb.

Only this time, the game will mean much more. Win and advance to the Elite Eight to play the winner of the Clemson-Kansas game. Lose and go home.

The first time the two teams played, on Feb. 24 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils won 60-44.

It was the first game back for freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, who had missed four games with a right knee sprain. Bagley came off the bench, scoring 19 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.

Scoring was hard to come by for both Duke and Syracuse. Duke's 60 points was its lowest of the season. Syracuse's 44 points was the second fewest Duke had given up this season. That can be partially attributed to both teams running a zone defense the entire game. The zone slowed the pace of the game and there were fewer opportunities for both teams to score.

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Both teams struggled from 3-point range. It took nearly 25 minutes before one was made. Syracuse and Duke combined to shoot 0-for-20 from behind the arc in the first half. Syracuse eventually knocked down six 3-pointers in the second half. Duke only hit two and finished 2-for-18 from behind the 3-point line.

"They have a lot of length," said senior guard Grayson Allen, who scored six points and had six assists against Syracuse. "Their zone kind of stands you up and tries to make you just make you make passes along the perimeter instead of penetrating. So they can really get out and contest your shots."

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Bagley (19 points) and Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr. (16 points) accounted for 58 percent of Duke's 60 points. They were the only two players to score in double digits.

There were times when Allen was able to find Bagley in the back of the zone for alley-oops. Allen threw two to him in the first half, and almost connected on another but threw the ball a little high. But Bagley came down with it and dunked the ball anyway.

Bagley III scores 22 points in Duke win
This game will likely be similar to the first matchup, as both run zone defense as their primary defense. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's teams have always run a zone. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced a decision to run zone as the primary defense on Feb. 18 after a win over Clemson.

It has paid dividends for both teams on the defense end. Syracuse is ranked No. 5 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (92.3 points allowed per 100 possessions). Duke is ranked No. 8 (93.3 points allowed against per 100 possessions).

But Allen hopes that they will be able to knock down their 3-pointers this game.

"We'd like to make a few more in this game," Allen said, "and move the ball more so we can get some good looks."

This article is written by Jonathan M. Alexander from The News & Observer and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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