Monday night, the Syracuse Orange basketball team did something no other team in modern Division I Basketball history has done: beat a No. 1 ranked Duke team at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Entering the night as a SEVENTEEN point underdog, a struggling Syracuse squad was expected to get trampled by the mighty Blue Devils.
After a slow start and a 12-0 run by Duke, that seemed to be the case. Then, about five minutes into the game, Tre Jones, Duke’s starting point guard, went down with a shoulder injury. This gave the ‘Cuse an opportunity to capitalize led by star guard Tyus Battle and East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes. Although potential number one pick Zion Williamson bullied Syracuse on the inside all game, Syracuse stayed tight with Duke. With 2.7 seconds remaining, Elijah Hughes heaved a 75-foot buzzer beater to end the half, cutting Duke’s once 12 point lead to just 1. This shot seemed to turn the tide. I MEAN LOOK AT THIS!:
The Orange played a defensively brilliant second half. Strong play from Battle, Frank Howard, and Paschal Chukwu helped the Orange come out with the dramatic overtime win.
As any Orange fan will tell you, Syracuse’s upset over Duke was not your ordinary upset. Since entering the ACC in 2013, they have been less than stellar in conference play. After going 14-4 in their first year, they have gone 9-9 twice, 10-8, and 8-10 last year. Of course, the ACC is an extremely tough conference to win in. But in the last few years, the Orange have seemed to have more bad loses than good wins in league play. Syracuse still has not had a year since their first where they’ve proven that they are capable of being atop the best basketball conference in the country.
That is why games against the likes of Duke, UNC, and Virginia are so important to Syracuse fans. It is an opportunity to prove that they belong. Yes, the Orange have beaten Duke before, but never a Duke team this skilled, athletic, or hyped. And after coming off an ugly loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, Monday’s game looked pretty bleak for the unranked, 11-5 Orange. That’s what made the upset so incredible. Syracuse was completely ruled out before the game even started. “They wouldn’t be able to handle Zion, Barrett was going to maul the defense, and Duke was going to shoot the lights out.” But that’s not what happened. Syracuse hung with arguably the best team Duke has had in years and simply outplayed them.
Syracuse has always been an underrated basketball team. Look at Joe Lunardi’s yearly bracket predictions for Syracuse versus how far they actually do in the tournament. It is ridiculous how underappreciated this team and coaching staff is, year in and year out. They have always been a scrappy team, full of heart and passion for the game. Yet teams like Duke continue to overshadow them.
That’s what made Monday’s victory so satisfying, not only for the Syracuse players, but the fans as well. The Orange went into Cameron Indoor Monday night with the insane hype of this year’s Duke squad hanging over their heads. Nobody believed in them, but they did not care. They could care less care about Zion’s 360 dunks, or Barrett’s recruiting ranking, or even that No. 1 in front of Duke’s name on the AP Top 25. They just wanted to give the world a taste of what happens when you count them out. And they did just that.
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