Syracuse upset No. 1 Duke by a score of 95-91 on Monday night. The Blue Devils were missing Cam Reddish the whole game, and Tre Jones for most of it.
Here are three takeaways from Syracuse's surprising win.
Jones is crucial on both ends. But he's especially impactful on defense.
Jones left the game early in the first half with a shoulder injury and didn't return. He was a menace on defense when he played, notching four steals in six minutes. Duke was in control when Jones was in the game.
Syracuse's guards erupted once he left. Alex O'Connell, his primary replacement, played well on offense. He went 4-for-8 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points. But there was a clear defensive dropoff, as Tyus Battle scored 32 points and Frank Howard chipped in 16. Battle would have been Jones's assignment; the latter is arguably the best perimeter defender in the country.
Tyus Battle was a warrior tonight for Syracuse in the win over Duke pic.twitter.com/tsv9Px3JXp— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 15, 2019
It's hard to believe Duke, which had the No. 3 defense in the country going into Monday, per KenPom, would allow 95 points with Jones (and Reddish, to a lesser extent) in the lineup. But it happened, and Battle and Howard deserve a ton of credit for making big shot after big shot.
Syracuse's defense remains stingy against the 3
Duke went 9-for-43 from 3-point range. Yes, 43. People will say that's the reason Duke lost. The defense (or lack thereof) is probably the biggest reason, sure. But 9-for-43 won't cut it.
A decent amount of those shots were open; Duke missed a bunch of clean looks. But Syracuse has a track record of defending the 3 well. Opponents were only shooting 29.6 percent from distance coming into the game, and the Orange's long athletes did all they could to disrupt the Blue Devils.
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This is where Reddish's absence hurt. He found his stride against Florida State, and Jack White went 0-for-10 from range on Monday. Syracuse dared Duke to shoot 3s all night and it paid off. Zion Williamson was his usual ridiculous self, going for 35 points and 10 boards. But the Orange made it extremely difficult for him to touch the ball in the final moments.
DOWN GOES DUKE!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 15, 2019
Syracuse shows no fear and knocks off No. 1 Duke in Cameron! pic.twitter.com/5VV7DkfXVq
Barrett was awesome in some aspects, and harmful in others
How's this for a stat line? Barrett scored 23 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished nine assists. Seems pretty great, right?
But then you see he went 8-for-30 from the floor and 4-for-17 from 3-point range. Oof. Barrett took 10 more shots than Williamson and scored 12 fewer points. Sure, it's easier for perimeter players to get shots against the Syracuse zone than interior guys. That's, like, the point. But Barrett (along with Duke's other guards) could have made more of an effort to feed Williamson near the end of the game. The lane was cramped, sure, but something good seemed to happen every time Williamson touched the ball. In this case, forcing it inside felt reasonable.
Barrett remains a polarizing player. He's a big net positive, of course, but he'll have games where his offensive assertiveness can be more harmful than helpful. This was one of those nights.