College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, February 1, 2014
Syracuse will be #1 when the new polls come out on Monday, not only because they are 21-0 after beating the Duke Blue Devils, 91-89, in overtime, Saturday, but also because the Arizona Wildcats, ranked at the top of college hoops for the past eight weeks, suffered their first loss of the season, falling to Cal, 60-58, making them 21-1.
The Syracuse-Duke meeting was a monumental game, so significant that for a while, late Saturday afternoon, a lot of people forgot there was a Super Bowl the next day.
A record 35,446 fans poured into the Carrier Dome to see the two most successful Division I coaches take their teams into head-to-head combat for the first time with Syracuse now a part of the ACC, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski with his 974 wins visiting Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, and his 940 - now 941.
The play on the court did not disappoint. It easily overshadowed the intense hype leading up to the contest between the #2 Orange and the #17 Blue Devils. In fact, 40 minutes wasn't even enough, as Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon hit a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, tied at 78.
In the overtime, with two Duke big men - Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson - having fouled out, the Orange repeatedly went inside to Jerami Grant, scoring Syracuse's first six points on emphatic dunks. Duke countered with the three-ball, as they had the entire game, as Andre Dawkins made two, sandwiching a layup in between, for an 87-84 Duke lead with 1:23 left.
Syracuse would not be denied, however, as Tyler Ennis and Grant combined for six points at the foul line, Ennis hitting four of four, Grant making a pair to go 10-for-10 from the line on the night. Sulaimon made a pair for Duke before Ennis hit his final two with 5.8 seconds left. C.J. Fair, who led all scorers with a career-high 28 points, missed the first of two free throws but made the second, giving Syracuse the two-point edge. Quinn Cook's shot at the buzzer caromed off the backboard as time expired, and jubilation reigned in upstate New York.
Statistically, the numbers defied logic. Syracuse shot 57% for the game, to Duke's 43%, but, Duke took half of its 72 shots from beyond the three-point line, making 15 of them, raining threes to keep them in the game. The Orange out-Duked Duke, getting to the line with amazing frequency - 32 times - and even more amazingly, making 26 of them - 81%. Duke only made 17 trips to the line, making 12.
Syracuse also out-rebounded the Blue Devils, 38-33, and blocked nine shots, to none for Duke, but still only managed a two-point win, and that, in overtime, no less.
Fair went 12-for-20 from the field and 3-for-6 from the line, adding five rebounds. Grant was 7-for-11, 10-for-10 at the line for a career-high 24 points, with 12 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season.
Syracuse improved to 8-0 in the ACC, a game better than second place Virginia, at 7-1, their 21-0 mark the best ever start to a season for a Syracuse team. Duke fell to 6-3 in the conference and 17-5 overall.