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Syracuse Rallies for Big Win at Duke 0

Posted on January 16, 2019 by Chris Kent

Committing three turnovers, four fouls, and shooting 0-for-3 including one missed layup – all which cause the head coach to make three substitutions over the first 3:02 of the game – is not a recipe for a win, especially against the number one team in the country on its’ home court. Add in the fact that you trail 12-0 before scoring your first point of the game and two of your team fouls are on your starting senior point guard who does not score in the first half, and you have even more of a hole to dig out of. However that is exactly what Syracuse did in a thrilling 95-91 road victory over No. 1 Duke on Monday Jan. 14 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. It was the first victory for the Orange over a No. 1 ranked team since Jan. 19, 2013 when it won at Louisville, 70-68.

Tyus Battle elevates for a breakaway dunk during Monday’s thrilling overtime victory over No. 1 Duke.

Junior shooting guard Tyus Battle lead the Orange (12-5, 3-1) with 32 points and had four assists while junior forward Elijah Hughes shot 4-for-9 on three-pointers en route to 20 points and grabbed five rebounds. Senior center Paschal Chukwu added a career-high 18 rebounds and scored 10 points. Battle’s 32 points represented the most points ever scored by a Syracuse player against the Blue Devils. Duke (14-2, 3-1) was lead by freshman forward Zion Williamson who had a career high 35 points and 10 rebounds while freshman forward RJ Barrett fell one assist short of a triple double with 23 points, 16 rebounds, and 9 assists. Williamson’s 35 points were the most ever by a Blue Devil freshman in a single game.

The Orange were coming off a sluggish performance in a 73-59 home loss to Georgia Tech just 48 hours earlier on Jan. 12 in which they had their worst shooting performance of the season  (18-for-57, .316) in dropping their first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season. However all that was short lived as Syracuse made a quick turnaround to notch a marquee win. Meanwhile, Duke was coming off a thrilling 80-78 win at Florida State on Jan. 12, secured by a late three-pointer by freshman Cam Reddish with 0.8 seconds left to play.

Against the Orange, The Blue Devils assumed control early with a 12-0 lead three minutes into the game. However that would be the largest margin for either side the whole game. Although Reddish did not play at all and Duke starting point guard Tre Jones did not return to the game after suffering a shoulder injury while diving for a loose ball at the 14:23 mark of the first half, Syracuse still faced a major challenge. The Orange soon found its’ rhythm behind the play of Battle and Hughes who literally shot Syracuse back into the game. The Orange mounted a 17-6 run over the next five minutes to pull within one at 18-17. Battle and Hughes accounted for all of those points with Battle netting 12 and Hughes adding five. Each of them hit one three-pointer during the run. While the Blue Devils would push their lead to as many as six at the midway point of the first half, Syracuse would stay close. A 5-0 Orange run on a Hughes three and two free throws by Battle forced the game’s first tie at 29 with 6:38 left in the first half. A Battle free throw gave Syracuse its’ first lead of the game at 34-33 with 5:12 left. The teams would exchange leads over the last five minutes of the half which ended with Hughes converting a three-pointer on a three quarter court heave that beat the halftime buzzer bringing Syracuse to within one, 49-48. Read the rest of this entry →

Syracuse and Duke Meet Again in The NCAA Tournament 0

Posted on March 23, 2018 by Chris Kent

Syracuse S LogoDuke BDev Logo Solid BlueSyracuse and Duke will matchup in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tonight in Omaha, NE. The two Atlantic Coast Conference programs parallel each other in many ways. Both are elite programs not only in the ACC but in the country and both boast a head coach who has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. Both programs have had and currently sport a group of their school’s former top players as assistant coaches. The Orange have the trio of Associate Head Coach Adrian Autry, Assistant Coach Allen Griffin, and Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara. Duke counters with the quartet of Associate Head Coach Jeff Capel, Assistant Coach Nate James, Assistant Coach John Scheyer, and Special Assistant Nolan Smith. Furthermore, both schools have at least one national championship to their credit and both consistently produce pro basketball players.

Yet, the similarities don’t stop there. Both teams have had a steady presence in the NCAA Tournament for decades. In the 39

Jim Boeheim is a Syracuse Icon

Jim Boeheim is a Syracuse Legend.

NCAA Tournaments (including this years) that have been held since the 1980 tourney, Syracuse has appeared in 30 while Duke has been in 35. Despite that highly frequent presence, this will be only the third time that the two schools have ever played each other in the NCAA Tournament, where Duke leads 2-0.

Although the two have not met that much in the NCAA Tournament, they have been annual combatants since the start of the 2013-14 season when Syracuse joined the ACC. In the Orange’s five-year history as an ACC member, Duke leads the series 4-3. Boeheim is 4-5 all-time against Duke and Syracuse has an all-time record of 5-6 against the Blue Devils.

Duke won 60-44 in the team’s only meeting this year on Feb. 24 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC. Freshman big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. controlled the interior for the Blue Devils. Bagley scored 19 points and had 7 rebounds while Carter had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Duke lead 27-16 at the half. It was the fewest points in a half on the season for the Orange. Syracuse pulled to within 37-30 with 9:49 left to play in the game. The Blue Devils then countered with a 9-2 surge over the next 3:04 to pad its’ lead en route to the win. Neither team shot well as the Orange converted just 31.5 percent (17-for-54) from the field while Duke shot 41.5 percent (22-for-53). It was worse for both sides from the 3-point line where Syracuse shot just 24 percent (6-for-25) and Duke only 11.1 percent (2-for-18).

Sophomore shooting guard Tyus Battle lead Syracuse with 12 points while Frank Howard added 11 points. Paschal Chukwu grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds before fouling out with 6:45 left to play.

Tyus Battle is a key player for Syracuse.

Tyus Battle is a key player for Syracuse.

This lone matchup this season was not a good indication of what each team is capable of. Both teams are playing better now and that game was mostly an aberration. The Orange defense did play pretty well that day and by holding Duke to 60 points, that was in their favor. More of that will be needed in tonight’s NCAA game but Syracuse will also have to have better offensive production. Throughout the season, the Orange have relied heavily on the trio of Battle, Howard, and freshman forward Oshae Brissett for most of there points. Each have been among the nation’s leaders in average minutes played per game during this season and they will need to be on the court nearly the whole game for Syracuse to have a chance to win. In the latest NCAA statistical rankings Battle leads the nation with 38.9 mpg and Howard is second at 38.3. Brissett is sixth at 38.0 mpg.

The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense can give teams fits and Syracuse will look to deploy that at full impact against Duke. Syracuse’s best chance at winning is to clamp down defensively, and control tempo by playing a slower paced game. Duke averages 84.9 points per game and outscores its’ opponents by an average of 15.6 ppg. If Syracuse can keep the game at a slower pace and make it a game in the 60’s its’ chances of winning are enhanced greatly.

The Orange have been offensively challenged most of this season as they have had difficulty getting much production outside of their big three. Syracuse’s postseason run so far has been greatly aided by players like Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chukwu, their other starters. Dolezaj scored a career high 20 points in Syracuse’s first round win over Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament on March 6 and had 17 points in the Orange’s 57-52 win over TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 16. Chukwu also scored 14 points and had nine rebounds in the win over Wake Forest on March 6 and has been more active on the boards of late with a total of 21 rebounds in the three NCAA Tournament wins. Contributions like those will be needed to help Syracuse’s cause against Duke.

The Orange opened the season 6-0 before losing to Kansas back on Dec. 2 in the Miami Hoophall Invitational. Syracuse’s only other loss before ACC play started was a 60-57 overtime loss to St. Bonaventure at home on Dec. 22. After beating Virginia Tech in its’ ACC opener on Dec. 31, the Orange lost their next four games to drop to 1-4 in the ACC. Syracuse remained in the NCAA Tournament picture by going 6-3 over the middle part of the conference schedule. Road wins at Louisville and Miami in February were huge for the Orange and a 55-52 home win over nationally ranked Clemson on March 3 likely tipped the scales in the favor of the Orange to secure an NCAA bid. In the end, Syracuse was selected as the very last team for the field of 68.

Battle leads the Orange with 19.3 ppg while Brissett and Howard add 14.9 ppg and 14.6 ppg respectively. Brissett and Chukwu are the team’s top two rebounders at 8.9 rpg and 6.8 rpg respectively. Howard also leads the team with 4.7 assists per game.

Syracuse averages only 66.7 ppg but gives up only 63.6 ppg, good for 10th in the country in scoring defense. More of that stingy defense via the 2-3 zone will be needed for the Orange to combat a more potent Blue Devil offense.

Duke counters with balance between the steady leadership of senior guard Grayson Allen and the scoring punch of Bagley and

Marvin Bagley III can score and defend inside for Duke.

Marvin Bagley III can score and defend inside for Duke.

Carter inside. Bagley, the ACC Player and Freshman of the Year, leads the Blue Devils with 21.2 ppg and 11.3 rpg. Allen scores 15.6 ppg while freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. adds 14.4 ppg. Carter scores 13.6 ppg and grabs 9.2 rpg.

Duke opened the year 11-0 which featured wins over Michigan State, Texas, Florida, and Indiana. After losing three of four in late January and early February, the Blue Devils ended the regular season 6-1 to finish 13-5 in the ACC. Duke was the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament and lost to North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on March 9. Duke, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, has beaten Iona and Rhode Island in the first two round of the NCAA Tournament thus far.

Tonight’s game could be magical. Boeheim and Krzyzewski are close friends and have a strong relationship having worked together as coaches for USA Basketball. Together the two have coached the United Sates Olympic Team to three gold medals in 2008, ’12, and ’16. Both coaches bring out the best in each other and nothing else but that will likely be the case tonight.

As for those past encounters in the NCAA Tournament, here is a look back at the two prior games between the two schools.

1966 East Region Finals: Syracuse Falls to Duke in Boeheim’s Final Collegiate Game

In 1966 the NCAA Tournament field included only 22 teams. College basketball history was made that year as Texas Western turned the page on racial equality by becoming the first team fielding an all-black starting lineup to win a national championship. Texas Western, known today as the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), was lead by Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins. The Miners of Texas Western beat Kentucky 72-65 in the NCAA Championship game that year.

While those lofty achievements were not reached by Syracuse, the then-Orangemen made their presence felt in what was only the school’s second NCAA bid in school history. Syracuse was lead by a pair of guards who would go on to become Hall of Famers in Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim. Bing, who averaged 24.8 points per game as a collegian and scored 28.4 per contest as a senior, went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA.

Jim Boeheim scored 15 points against Duke in 1966.

Jim Boeheim scored 15 points against Duke in 1966.

The game was played in Raleigh, NC on March 12, 1966 and Duke won 91-81. The  Blue Devils were lead by Jack Marin’s game-high 22 points to go with nine rebounds. Four other players scored in double figures for Duke including Robert Verga (21) and Steve Vacendak (19). Mike Lewis had 16 points and 13 rebounds while Bob Riedy scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

George Hicker lead the Orangemen with 17 points followed by Richard Dean with 16 points. Boeheim shot 6-for-10 from the field and scored 15 points. Vaughn Harper scored 13 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds while Bing added 10 points and had eight rebounds.

The game was a back-and-forth tempo with neither team establishing a large lead. Syracuse had a six-point lead with between seven and eight minutes left to play in the game. Duke then hit some long shots to take the lead and pull away down the stretch in the eventual 10-point win that sent Duke to The Final Four where it lost to Kentucky in the semifinals.

Duke finished 25-4 that year while the Orangemen ended up 22-6. Despite the loss, it was a step in the right direction for the Syracuse program which was in its’ infancy of notoriety. Getting to the East Region Finals that year was an important step for the Orangemen to take. Facing Duke helped in gaining national attention as well as respect. For Boeheim, it was his final game as a collegiate player but only the very beginning of his life-long affiliation with Syracuse University. Boeheim has stood the test of time at Syracuse where he has been a player, graduate assistant coach, full-time assistant coach, and head coach, the last of which he has held for 42 years.

1998 Sweet Sixteen, Duke Derails Syracuse

Shane Battier is one of Duke's All-Time Top Players.

Shane Battier is one of Duke’s All-Time Top Players.


At Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, the dreams of continuing down the road to an NCAA Championship came to an end for Syracuse behind a talented Blue Devil team on March 20, 1998. Seeded No. 5 in the South Region, the then-Orangemen trailed 40-30 at the half before falling in the end, 80-67.

The first half saw Syracuse stifled by Duke’s aggressive man-to-man defense which overplayed the passing lanes. This greatly factored into Duke’s 22-13 lead midway through the first half. The Orangemen then became aggressive. Jason Hart scored on two drives and converted a turnover into a layup. Etan Thomas also was fed on the inside where he scored on two dunks. This helped bring Syracuse back to trail just 30-26 with 2:37 left in the first half before Duke surged ahead to lead by 10 at the break. The Orangemen would pull even at 49 apiece with 12:25 left following a tip in of a missed free throw by backup center Elvir Ovcina. However Duke responded with an 11-0 run over the next five minutes to take control and seal the victory.

Mike Krzyzewski has lead Duke to five national titles.

Mike Krzyzewski has lead Duke to five national titles.

Elton Brand lead the way for Duke with 20 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 10-for-14 from the field. Shane Battier shot 6-for-7 from the field en route to 14 points and seven rebounds. The Blue Devils, the regions No. 1 seed, also got 11 points from William Avery and 10 points from Chris Carrawell.

Todd Burgan lead Syracuse with 20 points and 10 rebounds and shot 7-for-16 from the field including a 4-for-7 effort from the three-point line. Hart had 15 points while Ryan Blackwell added 11. Thomas finished with nine points and six rebounds for the Orangemen who finished the season 26-9.

Duke went on to play Kentucky in the South Regional Final and lost 86-84. Kentucky went on to The Final Four where it beat Stanford in the semifinals before winning the national championship with a 78-69 win over Utah. Duke ended the season 32-4.

Mike Gminski: Four-Year Duke Star 0

Posted on March 10, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Mike Gminski

Mike Gminski

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a star big man who achieved great success at Camden Indoor Stadium in the era before Coach K and the One-and-Done big men became the norm at Duke University.

Much like recent Duke big men Marvin Bagley III, Jayson Tatum and Jahlil Okafor, Mike Gminski made an immediate impact for the Blue Devils. However, because he played 40 years earlier at a time when few players left college early, Gminski spent four years racking up stats and success in Durham. Read the rest of this entry →

College Basketball’s Championship Week has Competitive Intrigue Across the Nation 2

Posted on March 06, 2018 by Chris Kent

Championship week is here for college basketball and teams are bracing for a frenzy. This annual week of competition features teams battling against their conference foes to determine the champions of their respective conference tournaments. While some teams are already assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament when the bids come out on Sunday March 11, others are “on the bubble,” and fighting for their NCAA lives. Even teams on stable ground for an NCAA bid will be playing this week to enhance their seeding for next week’s big dance while chasing their conference tourney title.

Here is a look at the major conference tournaments coming up this week with a more extensive look at the Atlantic Coast Conference. From top to bottom there is quality competition across the board. This will make the coming six days must see TV for the college basketball junkie.

*Note: The Big 10 Conference already has held its’ postseason conference tournament. Michigan defeated Purdue on Sunday March 4, 75-66 in the title game. The Big 10 Tournament was held Feb. 28 to Mar. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

2018 ACC MBask Tourn Logo FPThe New York Life Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament

March 6-10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY

Virginia was clearly the best team in the conference during the regular season and won the ACC regular season championship with a 17-1 conference mark, placing four wins ahead of No. 2 Duke (13-5). The No. 1 Cavaliers’ 17 conference wins and nine conference road wins this season were both ACC records. Virginia, 28-2 overall, became the fourth team in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll era (since 1990) to reach the No. 1 spot in the AP weekly poll after being unranked in the preseason. Head coach Tony Bennett has the Cavaliers poised to make a deep postseason run. For the third time in the last five years, Virginia enters this week’s New York Life ACC Tournament as the top seed.  They have a double bye and open play Thursday March 8 in the quarterfinals.

Bennett was named this year’s ACC Coach of The Year, his third such honor since becoming head coach of the Cavaliers prior to the 2009-10 season. Senior Isaiah Wilkins was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and freshman De’Andre Hunter was named the Sixth Man of the Year. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy was named to the All-ACC First Team while sophomore guard Ty Jerome garnered third-team honors. Read the rest of this entry →

Crucial Week Lies Ahead for Syracuse Orange as Huge Games Loom 0

Posted on February 20, 2018 by Chris Kent

An absolute crucial week is about to commence for the Syracuse men’s basketball team. Come late Saturday night, it could end up making or breaking the season for the Orange.

SU LogoWhile Syracuse’s regular season finale on March 3 with nationally ranked Clemson (20-6, 9-5) will carry weight for its’ NCAA Tournament hopes as well, this week’s back-to-back games against ACC bluebloods North Carolina and Duke will be enormous for the Orange as they seek to secure an NCAA bid. Although Syracuse will also compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament March 6-10 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY where its’ play could also factor into their chances for an NCAA bid, leaving most or all of their NCAA fortunes to that event would be risky when it is not yet even known what the seedings or matchups are going to be.

The Orange (18-9, 7-7) will play three of their final four regular season games against teams currently ranked in the top 15 and who also have a top 10 RPI. A win or two against those teams would place Syracuse on solid instead of shaky ground by the end of the regular season. This would be to their advantage and seem to make their NCAA path easier. Although it is possible for a team “on the bubble” to play its’ way to an NCAA bid based on what they do during championship week, it is a tougher road.

The competition level ramps up for the Orange on Wednesday Feb. 21 when defending national champion North Carolina (21-7,

Roy Williams coaches with fierce intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

Roy Williams coaches with intensity and has another 20-win season in 2017-18.

10-5) visits the Carrier Dome for a nationally televised prime time game at 7 pm EST on ESPN. Ranked 10th in this week’s AP Poll and possessing an RPI of five, the Tar Heels are riding a five-game winning streak that has featured wins over Duke, North Carolina State, and Louisville. Meanwhile, Syracuse has won three of its’ last four games and comes off a 62-55 win at Miami on Feb. 17.

North Carolina has another strong team this year and is lead by the trio of senior guards Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson along with 6-8 junior forward Luke Maye who leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 18.4 and 10.5 averages respectively. Berry II and Pinson not only give the Tar Heels production but a pair of senior leaders in the backcourt who have played in the last two national championship games. Berry averages 17.7 points per-game and dishes out 3.1 assists per-game while Pinson adds 9.3 ppg along with a team-best 4.5 apg. Junior guard Kenny Williams also scores 11.5 ppg.

Berry II is one of the better point guards in North Carolina history. Named to the All-Final Four Teams each of the last two seasons, Berry II is one of just two players in ACC history to be named the ACC Tournament MVP in one season (2016) and garner Final Four Most Outstanding Player in another (2017), joining Duke legend Christian Laettner, arguably the top NCAA Tournament performer of all-time. Read the rest of this entry →

Syracuse and Kansas Sport a History on the Basketball Hardwood 2

Posted on December 03, 2017 by Chris Kent
Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

In one of the most thrilling finishes in NCAA championship game history, Syracuse beat Kansas 81-78 to clinch its’ first and only men’s basketball national title in school history in 2003. Hakim Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds to play secured the title which became official when the Jayhawks’ ensuing possession resulted in a missed 3-pointer by senior guard Kirk Hinrich as time expired.

It was a euphoric moment in Orange history.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, in his 27th year at the helm at the time, won his first national title in his third trip to the championship game. Boeheim and the Orange had come up short in two prior championship games against Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. The third time for Boeheim as head coach at Syracuse (he was an assistant coach on the school’s first Final Four team in 1975), proved to be the charm.

The two met again on Dec. 2 as they dueled in the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. where Kansas won 76-60. Both teams were 6-0 entering the game. Each school posted home wins over Texas Southern, Oakland, and Toledo in earlier rounds of this Invitational in November.

Since their ’03 title clash, there have been many changes in the college basketball landscape. Conference realignment has dominated among the six power conferences and both schools have been impacted by this. The Orange left The Big East after the 2012-13 season to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have welcomed in such teams as West Virginia to the Big 12. We’ve had mid-major teams like George Mason (2006), Butler (2010, ’11), and Virginia Commonwealth (’11) make The Final Four with Butler finishing as the national runner-up in both 2010 and ’11. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Iron Man Randy Smith
      February 2, 2019 | 5:58 pm

      Randy Smith-BravesThe Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month may have had a pretty common name, but his iron man streak as an NBA player was anything but ordinary.

      In a streak that lasted more than a decade, Randy Smith played in 906 consecutive NBA games to establish an NBA iron man record that lasted more than a decade.

      That Smith made it to the NBA at all was somewhat of an underdog story.

      A three-sport standout at Bellsport High School in Long Island (basketball, soccer and track), Smith also was a three-sport All-American at Division II Buffalo State College. He helped lead the Bengals to three straight basketball conference championships and a spot in the 1970 Division II Final Four.

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