Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Survive, Headed to Elite 8

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 23: Grayson Allen
OMAHA, NE - MARCH 23: Grayson Allen /

The Duke Blue Devils held off a pesky Syracuse Orange team in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Survive and advance.

That’s all the Blue Devils did tonight as they managed to get by Syracuse without their best game.

Duke couldn’t have possibly shot worse from three-point range, 5-26 to be exact, and it didn’t even feel like they made that many.

Grayson Allen, in particular, struggled taking 15 shots from the floor, 14 of them being beyond the arc. He only made three of those fourteen shots, also sinking his only two-point attempt. Allen finished with 15 points, but as a distributor, he was sensational with 8 assists.

Allen wasn’t the only Duke guard that struggled, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. didn’t have nights to remember either.

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Duval had 2 points, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers. After two great games in Pittsburgh, Duval reverted back to his bad habits of trying to do too much. Yes, the Syracuse 2-3 zone may have had something to do with that, but Duke needs Duval to find what he had in Pittsburgh and keep that going.

Trent Jr. also couldn’t find his shot against the zone, but he shook that off and stepped to the free throw line to clinch the victory for Duke with 6 seconds left.

One guard that did have a good game in his limited minutes for Duke was Alex O’Connell. O’Connell brought an intensity and length to the zone that was a good change for Duke.

If Duval struggles again in the Elite 8, O’Connell should get some extended minutes. Could O’Connell be the Grayson Allen of the 2015 National Championship team? I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible.

We’re running out of words to explain how good and dominant Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. are.

Bagley had 9 points and 0 rebounds going into halftime. He finished the game with 22 points and 8 rebounds, 7 offensive.

Carter Jr. finished with yet another double-double, 14 points, and 12 rebounds.

One injury note to keep an eye on for Duke is Marques Bolden. Bolden left the game at the under-12 timeout with a bloody nose/lip and didn’t return. He looked capable to return, but Coach K decided to ride Bagley and Carter, not a bad idea.

The effort of Duke was almost washed away with the heroics of Syracuse star Tyus Battle down the stretch.

Battle finished with 19 points on 7-15 shooting. Battle was the one player Duke had to lock in on, and for a majority of the game, they did a good job on him before he tried to break through the Duke zone late in the game.

Despite Marek Dolezaj‘s early foul trouble, Dolezaj managed to finish with 13 points and he torched Duke in the short corner.

Duke has had problems defending that part of the zone, with players like Bonzie Colson, Luke Maye, and Theo Pinson exposing it.

The Blue Devils will get into the film room and back on the practice court as they prepare for the Big 12 Champions, the Kansas Jayhawks, on Sunday.