Shorthanded Duke basketball team dismantles Syracuse zone in first half

Duke basketball small forward AJ Griffin (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball small forward AJ Griffin (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball looked in sync throughout the first half against Syracuse.

In the first half against the visiting unranked Syracuse Orange (9-9, 3-4 ACC) on Saturday afternoon, the Duke basketball team figured out how to attack the opponent’s famous zone defense.

Plain and simple.

And the result was a 36-22 halftime lead for the No. 6 Duke Blue Devils (14-3, 4-2 ACC), who are without the services of freshman starter Trevor Keels, despite a spurt from the Orange midway through the half.

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An assist party from the Duke basketball squad

All 13 of Duke’s field goals in the first half, including the Blue Devils’ 7-for-15 performance beyond the arc before the break, came off assists. The answer was often to feed freshman power forward Paolo Banchero near the charity stripe and let the four-time ACC Freshman of the Week orchestrate the offense from the zone defense’s “blind spot,” so to speak.

Banchero finished the half with four assists in addition to four points and a team-high eight rebounds. Meanwhile, junior small forward and co-captain Wendell Moore paced the Blue Devils in the assist department with six dimes but managed only two points of his own.

Freshman small forward AJ Griffin led the way for Duke with 12 points due to his 4-for-6 clip from downtown.

Duke entered the game looking to bounce back from Tuesday night’s overtime road loss against the Florida State Seminoles, one of two losses in its past four games.

After this home bout against the Syracuse Orange, the Duke Blue Devils next play host to the Clemson Tigers at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on the Duke Blue Devils’ clash against the Syracuse Orange, plus other Duke basketball news and views.