Williams scores 28, No. 7 Duke beats Syracuse 97-72

Feb 26, 2022, 3:26 AM | Updated: 7:06 pm
Duke forward Paolo Banchero (5) celebrates with forward AJ Griffin (21) after scoring against Syrac...

Duke forward Paolo Banchero (5) celebrates with forward AJ Griffin (21) after scoring against Syracuse during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — With Syracuse’s big man out for the season, the Orange again were no match for No. 7 Duke.

Mark Williams scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, Paolo Banchero had 21 points and dished out nine assists with one turnover in the heart of the Syracuse zone defense, and AJ Griffin added 20 points as the Blue Devils raced to a commanding early lead and beat Syracuse 97-72 on Saturday night.

“I thought our offense was like amazing in the first 17 minutes. We played very well in the second half,” Krzyzewski said. “They scored the last 11 points of the first half and anything can happen then.”

It didn’t. With 6-foot-11 center Jesse Edwards watching with a broken wrist, the Blue Devils had their way again with Syracuse, which they defeated 79-59 three weeks ago at home.

“Obviously, we performed very well on the offensive end,” Williams said. “I think we were really locked in on the defensive end, too. We were moving the ball. We were getting really good shots, and defensively we just communicated well, moving, playing great defense.”

Duke had a season-high 26 assists on 35 baskets, one more assist than the last time the teams met.

“Jesse is a difference-maker for this team. It’s been too hard to overcome,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “We can’t handle Duke. It’s pretty simple.”

It was the final regular-season meeting between the two winningest coaches in Division I history — Krzyzewski (1,195), who’s retiring after the season, and Jim Boeheim (997). It was Krzyzewski’s 200th road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference, extending his record.

Duke (25-4, 15-3 ACC) is closing in on its first ACC regular-season championship since 2010. The Blue Devils were a game ahead of Notre Dame, which beat Georgia Tech on Saturday night. The Blue Devils have a seven-game road winning streak, the longest active one by a Power 5 team.

Banchero had four 3s and Griffin had 6 on 17 attempts, and Duke finished 15 of 32 from deep. Williams finished 11 of 14 from the floor and had 12 rebounds.

“Paolo, it was one of his best games,” Krzyzewski said. “And Mark was fantastic. His ability to catch and finish and also get eight offensive rebounds was huge. I’m obviously very pleased.”

Banchero scored a season-low eight points on 2-of-13 shooting in a four-point win at Virginia on Wednesday night and entered the game 5 of 17 from behind the arc in the previous seven games.

“Just having fun, really,” Banchero said. “I felt like the past few weeks I had been putting some unnecessary pressure on myself. Just overthinking, especially on offense. That overthinking and overanalyzing really affected my game. So it was just amazing. When I play free and play fun, I always play better.”

Buddy Boeheim led Syracuse (15-14, 9-9) with 23 points, Joe Girard had 18 and freshman Benny Williams a season-high 14. Bourama Sidibe added 11 points.

“It’s tough,” Buddy said.

Duke raced to a 14-0 lead, hitting its first four shots and two free throws while the Orange went 0-7 and 0-3 from beyond the arc. With 11:47 left in the opening half, Duke was 11 of 12 from the floor, including 6 for 7 on 3s. Two 3s by Banchero, two more by Griffin and a dunk by Williams put the Blue Devils up 31-9 as the big Carrier Dome crowd had little to cheer.

The lead ballooned to 48-18 on a corner 3 by Banchero with 5:02 left before Buddy Boeheim hit a pair of 3s and scored 10 points to narrow the lead to 51-34 at halftime.

Banchero had 18 points and Griffin 14 in the opening half, combining to hit 8 of 11 3-pointers. The Blue Devils shot 18 of 30 (60%) and 10 of 17 (58.8%) from behind the arc in the period.

Jimmy Boeheim, who had scored 15 points in the first half of each of Syracuse’s previous two games, missed the three shots he attempted and did not score in 21 minutes. Cole Swider, who was averaging 13.3, finished with two points and took just four shots.

Syracuse closed to 73-57 on a 3-pointer by Williams midway through the second half, but got no closer.


Duke has been a fixture in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 since it was ranked No. 9 in the preseason — and will stay there.


Krzyzewski, who graduated from West Point and coached there before going to Duke, was honored Wednesday night at Virginia with a plaque and Syracuse followed suit on Saturday. Coach K was given a photo of him and Jim Boeheim that was mounted on a tile from the old Carrier Dome roof and Syracuse University established a military scholarship in his honor..

“Wow! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I very much appreciate it,” Krzyzewski said afterward.


Boeheim wanted fans to be able to attend without having to wear masks, but that didn’t happen. The game drew 31,803, the 85th time that attendance has surpassed 30,000. Duke’s visit three years ago set the Carrier Dome record of 35,642. A moment of silence was held before the game to honor Ukraine.


Duke: The Blue Devils have been the class of the ACC all season. Duke is the conference’s lone ranked team and will have a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse: The Orange entered the game 0-7 in the important Quadrant 1 games and were mired at 86th in the NCAA’s NET rankings. In a down year for the ACC, the automatic bid that goes to the conference tournament champion likely remains the only hope for Syracuse to make the NCAA Tournament.


Duke: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Syracuse: At North Carolina on Monday night.


More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Williams scores 28, No. 7 Duke beats Syracuse 97-72