Sulaimon, No. 23 Duke beat Virginia 69-65
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – If No. 23 Duke turns its season back around and starts playing like a Final Four contender again, the Blue Devils might credit the final few seconds of Monday night’s game as a big reason why.
Duke beat Virginia 69-65 after Rasheed Sulaimon bounced in the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds left.
Sulaimon finished with a season-high 21 points – including four 3s – and Rodney Hood added 14 for the Blue Devils (13-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Debuting their lowest ranking since the last time they fell out of the AP Top 25 in February 2007, they let an 11-point lead with 3½ minutes completely slip away before finding a way to avoid a third loss in four games.
“This has to be the game where we look back (and say) that game versus Virginia is where our guys bonded together and became a real Duke team,” said forward Amile Jefferson, who had two big rebounds in the final seconds, including one that led to Sulaimon’s final 3.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 points and Joe Harris added 15 for the Cavaliers (12-5, 3-1), who erased that deficit by scoring 11 consecutive points, then took their first lead of the game when Brogdon’s free throws with 36.5 seconds remaining made it 65-64.
“To show that kind of heart and to climb back in and have a one-point lead was, I told the guys, ‘Don’t hang your head about that,'” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “That could have gotten away, and they scrapped and fought their way back.”
Jefferson grabbed Hood’s air ball and kicked it out to Sulaimon who was waiting alone in the left corner.
His 3-pointer bounced high off the rim and dropped through to put Duke up 67-65.
Akil Mitchell threw the ball away while trying to get it to Harris, but Jefferson gave it right back to Virginia.
“It’s the action we wanted. We just didn’t execute the pass,” Bennett said. “It’s a 2-point game. I thought, ‘OK, we’re going to get one here.’ But (Jefferson) certainly had eyes on that, and it wasn’t meant to be on that one.”
Harris then missed a layup with about 10 seconds left and Jefferson, a 41 percent free throw shooter entering the game, iced it with two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining.
“It was just chaotic, but those are winning plays,” Jefferson said, “and today, we made those plays.”
Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said Jefferson “willed us to win. That was one of the great sequences that I’ve seen, and the basketball gods are good to somebody who does that.”
Jefferson finished with 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for Duke, which denied Virginia both its first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium and first 4-0 start to ACC play since 1995.
For much of this one, the Blue Devils didn’t look like the team that had gone from preseason ACC favorite to question mark while dropping out of the top 10 to its lowest ranking in seven years.
“Win or lose, we’re in the top 10, we’re not in the top 10, we’re this, we’re that, we’re a disappointment or whatever,” Krzyzewski said. “I have a good basketball team (and) my kids played their hearts out tonight. We’re just going to keep moving on and really we’ll be immune to praise or criticism because we’ll be our own best self-critics.”
Coming off a 10-day stretch in which it dropped road games at Notre Dame and Clemson, Duke played tougher-than-usual defense and kept Virginia at bay throughout.
But its 26th straight win at Cameron didn’t come without some late-arriving tension: After Quinn Cook’s layup with 4½ minutes remaining, Duke didn’t hit another field goal until Sulaimon’s timely 3.
Cook’s free throw with 3:45 left gave the Blue Devils a 63-52 lead.
Virginia – which was at or near 50 percent shooting in its last two games, including a 31-point rout of North Carolina State two nights earlier – struggled to hit anything early against a once-wobbly Duke defense while three times falling behind by 13 points.
They held the Blue Devils well below their ACC-leading average of 82.7 points per game and tightened things up by shooting 43.8 percent in the second half.
Justin Anderson reeled off six consecutive points to start their late rally. Harris added a layup with about 2 minutes left and Brogdon followed that with a three-point play with 1:25 left that produced the first tie since the opening tip.
No. 2 Syracuse pulls away from BC, 69-59
BOSTON (AP) – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has seen this from his team already this season, so it didn’t come as a surprise. The second-ranked Orange followed some lackluster play with a dominating stretch.
Trevor Cooney scored 21 points, Jerami Grant added 16 and unbeaten Syracuse fought off pesky Boston College for a 69-59 victory Monday night.
“We’ve been down in the second half a couple of times this year,” Boeheim said. “When we’re in that situation guys make plays. Tonight it was Trevor.”
Trailing 51-46 with just over 10 minutes to play, the Orange started to take advantage of their size inside during a 16-1 run over the ensuing 3 1-2 minutes. Grant had a dunk and conventional three-point play. Cooney scored on a putback on the third offensive rebound and nailed a 3 from the right wing, capping the run.
“We dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole, but it was good to see us get out of there,” Cooney said. “It just shows us a little more about this team.”
The Orange were being tested by BC’s timely outside shooting before they picked it up on the defensive end and took charge.
“I thought overall our defense was good except for that,” Boeheim said. “We played as bad offensively as we have all year.”
C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis both had 12 points for the Orange (17-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). Grant added eight rebounds for Syracuse, one of four unbeaten teams in Division I.
Lonnie Jackson scored 18 points – all on 3-pointers – for the Eagles (5-12, 1-3), Ryan Anderson had 14 and Olivier Hanlan finished with 13 points and six assists.
“I thought this midway through the game to myself, ‘The reason we’re competing against the No. 2 team in the country is because we’ve been through so much already in the season that it’s not fazing the guys,'” BC coach Steve Donahue said of his team, which struggled through a tough non-conference schedule.
The Orange, who also started 2011-12 by winning their first 17 games, outrebounded Boston College 28-24, collecting half on the offensive glass, which helped them pull away for the win.
After BC opened a six-point lead midway into the second half, Fair felt like Syracuse realized it was being tested.
“It was like, ‘If we don’t respond right now this can get out of hand,'” he said. “We came together and once we got going we never looked back.”
BC went 9 for 21 from 3-point range, but couldn’t hit any key shots in the closing minutes.
Following Syracuse’s game-breaking run, Hanlan hit two free throws before the Orange’s Baye Moussa Keita had a one-handed putback slam, making it 60-51 with 6:01 left.
“Plays like that are momentum swings,” Cooney said. “It got on our side for a period of time which was big for us.”
The Eagles were never closer than six points the rest of the way.
“Trevor made a couple of big shots to get us going,” Fair said. “I think it’s all about him being comfortable and confident.”
The Orange, who host No. 22 Pittsburgh on Saturday, were without DaJuan Coleman, who was sidelined with a bruised knee.
BC center Dennis Clifford was a late scratch after rolling his ankle in warmups. He’s played in just two games this season, being sidelined with tendinitis in both knees.
Jackson’s sixth 3-pointer of the game, coming off Joe Rahon’s long arcing pass over a double-team from corner to corner, had given BC a 50-44 lead with 11:56 left. But, after that shot, the Eagles went 11:12 without a field goal, turning the ball over on a handful of trips, before Eddie Odio had a dunk in the closing minute.
The Eagles, who trailed 32-30 at halftime, opened the second half by outscoring the Orange 15-3 to take a 45-37 lead on Anderson’s dunk with just under 16 minutes to play. BC ran plays through the lower part of Syracuse’s zone that led to consecutive 3-pointers from the right corner by Jackson and Rahon before Anderson collected a feed inside for his dunk.
With a nearly half-filled building of Syracuse fans breaking into a chant of ‘Let’s Go Orange,’ Cooney had three breakaway dunks off turnovers – two coming off his steals – as they took a 32-23 lead with 2 1-2 minutes left in the half. It looked like they were ready to break the game open.
The Eagles then scored the final seven points of the half, with Jackson’s third 3-pointer triggering the run.
It was the first time the schools – both charter members of the Big East – met as members of the ACC.