DURHAM, N.C. — Fresh off its first 20-point comeback in 16 years, the Syracuse University men’s basketball team was unable to complete the feat for a second time in three days.
DJ Steward scored 21 points as Duke continued its February surge, thumping Syracuse, 85-71, Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium to win its fourth game in a row and halt a three-game SU victory streak.
It was a big night for Duke freshmen, with Mark Williams contributing 18 points and 11 rebounds and Jeremy Roach pouring in 14 points to join Steward among the efficient first-year players. Roach and Steward added seven assists apiece.
Matthew Hurt put up 15 points for Duke (11-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), which shot 13-for-29 from 3-point range and won despite attempting only seven free throws.
Syracuse (13-7, 7-6), which lost for the third time in the past nine games, has allowed a combined 25 makes from behind the 3-point arc in its last two outings.
Buddy Boeheim posted 21 points — aided by five 3-pointers — and Kadary Richmond scored 15 points off the bench for the Orange. Teammates Marek Dolezaj and Alan Griffin had 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Richmond started the second half in place of sophomore guard Joe Girard III and played 30 minutes for his most playing time since Dec. 19 in an overtime victory over Buffalo.
“He’s learning, he’s a really good player, which is what I’ve said all along,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said. “In the second half he didn’t score because they took away his drive, and he will learn, he’s got to learn how to handle that and when to make a play.”
The only matchup of the season between the teams was critical for both squads aiming to rise to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Orange entered at No. 47 in the NCAA NET Rankings while Duke was No. 56. Syracuse fell to 0-5 in Quad 1 games and has another opportunity for its first victory in such outings when it next plays at noon Saturday at Georgia Tech.
SU is then slated to end the regular season by hosting North Carolina on Monday but could add a makeup game later that week.
“There are 100 teams that could get in this tournament and we haven’t had bad losses, but we haven’t had enough good wins,” Jim Boeheim said.
“Virginia Tech is not enough, it’s not enough” he added. “Georgia Tech is playing great, that will be a harder game than this maybe, and (North) Carolina is playing great again, and whoever we play in the last game will be a good team. But we have to win games. It’s simple, a week ago, Duke was out of the tournament completely and now they’re practically in the tournament.”
Steward and Roach both sank four 3-point shots. Williams, a center, had season highs in points and rebounds while shooting 9-for-11 from the field.
Duke, which claimed a one-point upset of then-No. 7 Virginia on Saturday night, bolted to a 52-34 halftime advantage and led by as much as 22 in the first half.
Syracuse never led, trailing by 16 points slightly more than 10 minutes into the game.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, you can’t start off like that, just not knowing where you are on the court and where other guys are, simple things,” Buddy Boeheim said.
“We definitely have to learn from that and we can’t start games like that, we’ve done that a couple times,” he added. “It’s frustrating for all of us, we all have to be better and focus on starting off the game well.”
Syracuse, which rallied from 20 points down in the second half to defeat Notre Dame on Saturday, couldn’t come up with much of a spark in this one.
The Orange got within 14 points before the midway mark of the second half but then missed a pair of 3-point attempts.
Duke’s Jordan Goldwire drained a 3-point shot for his first points of the game to quell Syracuse’s momentum.