Durham, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top teams in the nation will square off at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday evening, as both the top- ranked Syracuse Orange and fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils attempt to put recent losses behind them.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are playing their third game in the last five days. Duke had a four-game win streak halted on Thursday night in a 74-66 setback to arch rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill. With the loss, the Blue Devils are now 10-4 in ACC play, three games behind both Syracuse and Virginia in the loss column. The Blue Devils are 14-0 in Durham this season and tied for the longest homecourt winning streak in the nation at 30 straight wins at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Jim Boeheim's Orange suffered their first loss of the season this week with Wednesday's stunning 62-59 overtime loss to Boston College at the Carrier Dome. The loss ended the 25-game win streak to begin the 2013-14 campaign and dropped the team to 12-1 in the ACC, now trailing Virginia (13-1) by a half game.
Duke and Syracuse clashed in perhaps the best game of the season on Feb. 1 in the Carrier Dome, a 91-89 overtime shootout win for the Orange, who now hold a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series. This game matches the two winningest coaches in Division I history with Krzyzewski (978 wins) and Boeheim (945 wins) matching wits.
In a shocking turn of events, the struggling Eagles outscored Syracuse 12-9 in the extra session to hand the Orange their first loss of the season. Senior C.J. Fair led all scorers in the losing effort with 20 points, adding 11 rebounds to record his second double-double of the season. Tyler Ennis had a strong all-around game with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Jerami Grant added 11 points in the loss. Rakeem Christmas just missed a double-double of his own with nine points and 11 boards. Syracuse struggled offensively in the game, shooting just .323 from the floor overall, including an ugly 2-of-12 from behind the arc.
The Orange are one of the top defensive teams in the country, limiting opponents to just 58.3 ppg. Syracuse has done a great job in limiting its own mistakes with just 9.1 turnovers over game, enjoying a +4.9 turnover margin. Fair was named the ACC Preseason Player of the Year and hasn't disappointed, averaging 16.6 ppg to pace the team, as well as ranking second in rebounding with 6.0 rpg. Fair is joined in the frontcourt by Grant, who adds 12.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Backcourt partners Trevor Cooney and Ennis are a formidable duo in the their own right. Cooney is the team's resident sniper at 13.3 ppg, thanks to his .421 efficiency from long range (77-of-183), while Ennis can find his own shot (11.8 ppg) and get others involved (5.7 apg) at a high rate.
Unlike Syracuse, Duke's strength comes at the offensive end. The team is extremely efficient, averaging 80.6 ppg, on .468 shooting, while ranking among the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, at .409 accuracy, while converting 9.3 treys per game. Freshman phenom Jabari Parker is definitely in the mix for ACC Player of the Year, ranking second in the conference in scoring (19.1 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.8 rpg). Rodney Hood has also made an immediate impact in his first season in Durham, netting 16.2 ppg, thanks in part to his .449 effort from behind the arc. Point guard Quinn Cook (12.1 ppg, 4.8 apg) is another versatile playmaker in the Duke attack.
Duke held an 11-point lead with just over 15 minutes to play, but let one slip away in Chapel Hill, in an eight-point loss to the Tar Heels. The team's usual efficiency wasn't there, as Duke shot just 36 percent from the floor in the second half, while converting just 5-of-22 from behind the arc. Parker and Cook led the way in defeat with 17 points apiece. Parker completed a double- double with 11 rebounds. Hood wasn't far behind with 16 points.