Syracuse season ends after Sweet 16 loss to Duke

Syracuse loses to Duke in Sweet 16

The Orange had chances, but couldn't push past its ACC rival.
Published: March 24, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. — Syracuse’s March Madness heroics came to an end Friday night as the Orange fell 69-65 to Duke University.

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Tyus Battle and Frank Howard (23) defend Grayson Allen during the NCAA Sweet 16 game between Syracuse and Duke on March 23.

Even though the teams played on Feb. 24, this game had much more on the line. Family, friends and alumni of both ACC schools were in the crowd hoping to advance and face Kansas in the Elite Eight. 

“We knew we had our work cut out for us and we had to play better offensively,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said.

Syracuse center Paschal Chukwu had the first Orange points on an alley oop from forward Marek Dolezaj. With Duke (29-7, 13-5 ACC) in its 2-3 zone, Chukwu found himself with space beneath the hoop to slam home the opening basket.

Syracuse guard Tyus Battle opened his night with an elbow 3-pointer to give Syracuse (23-14, 8-10 ACC) its first lead at 5-4. The sophomore guard, unsure of his collegiate future, received high praise from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“Battle is one of the best players in the country,” Coach Krzyzewski said. “He’s a big-time player. I love Tyus.” 

The contest went back and forth as both teams pounded it inside. Duke guard Gary Trent Jr. scored his first 3-pointer to tie the game at nine. A dunk by Dolezaj gave the Orange another lead, but minutes later he picked up his second foul. Matthew Moyer stepped in and grabbed second-chance points to increase the lead to four.

Oshae Brissett vs. Duke in the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game in Omaha, Neb.
Oshae Brissett (11) drives towards the basket during Friday's Syracuse-Duke's Sweet 16 game in Omaha.

Duke guard Grayson Allen saw chances beyond the arc during the first half, scoring on a 3-pointer after they worked it inside.

Frank Howard and Oshae Brissett remained quiet offensively, only scoring two points each early. With them not finding their touch, the offense ran through Battle.

Syracuse had 27-24 with 5:20 remaining in the first half. After that, the Orange offense wouldn’t score for the rest of the half, allowing Duke to go on a 10 – 0 run that give the Blue Devils a 34-27 lead at halftime.

“Yeah, we turned the ball over a little too much in the first half,” Battle said.

Syracuse stormed back in the second half through increased pressure and finding shots for Brissett and Howard. Syracuse clawed its way to within one following a base line jumper from Dolezaj.

The Blue Devils, though, remained in front. As Syracuse looked to take the lead, the Duke defense took the ball away. A 3-pointer from Trent Jr. forced Boeheim into a timeout.

“But we did a great job, like I said, of keeping our head and staying poised and adjusting on the defensive end,” said Duke forward Marvin Bagley III.

Coming out of the timeout, Duke successfully trapped Syracuse, forcing one of Syracuse’s 16 turnovers in the game.

Whenever it looked like Duke would pull away, Battle and the Orange were right there to grab another opportunity. Duke’s largest lead was nine points. Syracuse’s tough defense prevented Duke from putting the game to bed. Even when Duke led 62-53 with 4:07 remaining, Syracuse worked Brissett inside.

“We knew going in it was probably going to be close all the way down to the wire, especially with how good they’ve been playing defense recently,” Allen said.

Syracuse had its chances in the final minutes. Battle’s fourth 3-pointer and a high looping jumper by Brissett made it a one-possession game with 1:26 remaining. A jumper from Trent Jr. was matched with a pair of free throws by Howard. Free throws by Allen were matched by a tip in by Dolezaj.

Syracuse even had a chance to take the lead when a missed FT by Allen made its way to Howard, who found Battle prepping to fire up a 3-pointer. Allen fouled the Syracuse guard, and Battle made one of two from the line. Down 2, Moyer was forced to foul Trent Jr., who made it a four-point Blue Devils lead. A shot from Battle went off the backboard, bringing Syracuse’s season to an end.

The positivity radiated off Boeheim, who was critical of his team during parts of the year.

“These guys have — I mean they’ve had an incredible end of the year,” Boeheim said.

In a somber locker room, Brissett attempted to keep spirits up.

“You always hate to lose, especially a game like this, where you know you could’ve won it. But we’ve got to be proud of what we did this year, proving everyone wrong,” Brissett said.

And that’s exactly what they did. Syracuse found itself with its back against the wall time and time again, but pushed through in new ways.

“I’ve never been any more proud of a team for what they’ve done in this last ten days,” Boeheim said.

Avatar for Will Muoio

is a newspaper and online journalism and political science senior, plus Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse.