Syracuse and Duke are making pushes to land in the mix for postseason bids, and one of them will take another step in that direction when they meet Monday night in Durham, N.C.
Duke (10-8, 8-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) continued its run on Saturday night when it knocked off No. 7 Virginia 66-65 for its third victory in a row.
“Over the last three games, we’ve emphasized defense and we’ve changed our ball screen defense which has helped us,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The last three games, we’ve really played well on the defensive end of the court and it’s made a difference in us winning and losing. We have to keep going.”
“The season hasn’t gone how we wanted it,” Duke forward Matthew Hurt said. “There has been a lot of negativity. We’re just going to try to keep getting better every day.”
Syracuse (13-6, 7-5) has won six of its past eight games, including a rally from 20 points down to defeat visiting Notre Dame 75-67 on Saturday. That marked the Orange’s biggest comeback since a victory over Rutgers in January 2005.
Junior guard Buddy Boeheim’s career-high 29 points was a huge factor for the Orange. So was holding Notre Dame to 21 second-half points.
Coach Jim Boeheim saw other factors as well.
“The whole difference in the game is when Quincy (Guerrier) gets physical and gets on the boards,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “He got on the boards, passed out for 3s, and played unselfish basketball.”
Duke has found the right formula. Hurt, a sophomore, has scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games, a string he accomplished for the first time in his career.
“There was a couple-game stretch where I wasn’t playing well, but my coaching staff and my teammates, they believe in me and they were giving me confidence,” Hurt said.
Duke and Syracuse have a strong connection because of the coaching ties between Boeheim and Krzyzewski. There was a bit of a stir last week after Duke freshman Jalen Johnson opted to sit out the rest of the season and Boeheim said the Blue Devils were better off without him.
“What I said the other night about Duke, who we’re going to play, had nothing to do with my friendship with Mike Krzyzewski,” Boeheim said, referring to comments on a podcast. “Nothing to do with Jalen Johnson at all. ….
“I watched half of North Carolina State and the whole game against Wake (Forest). … They played the best I’ve seen them play this year. I just made the observation that I thought they played better without him in those two games, (actually) a game and a half. They were a better team than I’ve seen this year. … Duke could be better if he was back. We’ll not know that because he didn’t come back.”
Duke has won the past three meetings with Syracuse. The Orange, though, have won in two of their three recent visits to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
–Field Level Media