Duke tops Syracuse in basketball's newest and best rivalry
DURHAM, N.C. -- Let it be said. Let it be written. Syracuse versus Duke has emerged as the most intoxicating rivalry in college basketball. And there is nothing the NBA has to offer that comes remotely close in terms of entertainment value.
Syracuse's 91-89 overtime victory over Duke at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1 remains the best game of the season. But Duke's 66-60 defeat of Syracuse last night at Cameron Indoor Stadium had unparalleled and unrelenting intensity. Few rematches live up to the hype. This one did.
Tickets on the street sold for as high as $2,000. Cameron Crazies covered in blue paint began screaming non-stop in the student section two hours before tip off. It was so loud by game time that you literally had to cup your hands and shout at the person next to you to be heard. Some media and security wore earplugs.
Emotions were so high that Jim Boeheim came unhinged and was escorted off the floor by police after being tossed with 10.4 seconds remaining. It marked the first time in his 38-year career that he'd been ejected from a regular season game.
Boeheim's meltdown started after Syracuse forward C.J. Fair drove the baseline with 11 seconds to play and Duke leading by 2. Fair collided with Duke forward Rodney Hood before making an acrobatic layup that was waived off when an offensive foul was assessed by official Tony Greene.
Boeheim tried unsuccessfully to rip off his jacket before tearing onto the court and showering Greene with enough expletives to make Martin Scorsese proud.
The outburst got him a double technical that put the game out of reach. Duke's Quinn Cook hit three-of-four free throws and the Blue Devils maintained possession. It was over. Top-ranked Syracuse fell to 25-2 and fifth-ranked Duke improved to 22-6.
Hood was also at the center of a controversial play that ended the first meeting in Syracuse. Trailing by two with seconds to play, Hood missed a dunk when seven-footer Rakeem Christmas made body contact with him at the rim. No foul was called.
This time Hood got the call. "I knew they were going to C.J.," Hood told SI.com. "As soon as he made his move I stepped over. I think I got there before he did. I knew I wasn't going to block his shot. He's too good of an athlete. So I stood there and took it."
Afterward, Boeheim continued to insist that Greene blew the call, saying it was "the worst call of the year."
Krzyzewski chose not to argue with his close friend. Instead, he sat in a jam-packed media room, feet crossed, and smiled. "The basketball gods are the best," he said, drawing a round of laughs. "They put Rodney in the two defining plays. The dunk that was maybe a foul up there and the charge that I think was a charge. Hood was the guy."
If the first Syracuse-Duke game felt like a sprint, this one was more like a heavyweight bout. Neither team could establish a comfortable lead. Both teams played ferocious defense. And every big play was answered with another big play. When Jabari Parker made a monster dunk, Tyler Ennis answered with a nifty assist. When Jerami Grant pulled off a power move inside, Hood responded with shifty head fakes and a soft jumper in the paint.
At the same time, the chess match between Boeheim and Kryzyewski was like watching Kasparov and Karpov. The substitutions, timeouts and defensive adjustments were flawless, which never allowed either team to go on a game-breaking run. It was just punch, counter-punch.
With the score tied at 41, Rasheed Sulaimon dished to Parker for a layup and a foul that put Duke up by 3. On the other end Ennis rebounded his own miss in traffic and kicked it to Fair, who knocked down a jumper to cut the lead to 1. Hood drove on Baye Moussa Keita to push Duke back up by 3. Seconds later Ennis dished to Grant, who drained it to cut the lead back to 1. Then Hood scored again to push it back to 3.
One of the officials turned to press row, shook his head and said: "What a game!"
Jabari Parker led both teams with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Tyler Ennis shot just 2 of 13 in 40 minutes, but he still managed to run Syracuse's offense like a unflappable floor general, handing out 6 assists and making 4 steals.
Both lineups are rich with NBA talent. But reserve players like Syracuse's Baye Moussa Keita and Duke's Marshall Plumlee played pivotal roles. Keita pulled down 9 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench, while Plumlee revved up the Duke crowd with 5 rebounds and 4 points off the bench in the first half.
Unlike rivalries that are built on hatred and disdain, this one is built on respect. Boeheim and Kryzyewski coach the Olypmic team together. Their players have a similar appreciation for each other. These teams don't argue. There's no chest bumping. Just the best brand of basketball in America. "I love the NBA to death, but this is something they can't do," Kryzyewski said. "That's our product."
If there are truly basketball Gods, they will give the country the opportunity to watch Syracuse and Duke play each other in Dallas in April.