“AJ is our best shooter. I’d really like for him to be even more aggressive,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a key guy, there’s no question about it. Every guy on our team has complete confidence in him.”
Griffin hit five 3-pointers — the most by a Duke player this season — and the sixth-ranked Blue Devils routed visiting Syracuse 79-59.
“We’re more connected on the offensive end with balanced scoring,” Krzyzewski said. “There were a couple of really good minutes of outstanding offense. It looked like the (Carolina) Hurricanes playing. There were a lot of hockey assists.”
Griffin was one of four players for Duke (15-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 15 points, joining Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams. Banchero had 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Jeremy Roach added 11 points.
Jesse Edwards led Syracuse (9-10, 3-5) with 12 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Boeheim also had 12 points.
Griffin swished 3-pointers on his first two shots to spark Duke’s 11-2 run out of the gate. Syracuse surged back with a 13-5 stretch but never took the lead from Duke.
A 24-11 run from the Blue Devils to start the second half extended their lead to 27. Moore tallied 10 points during that span. Duke grew its lead to 31 points during the second half.
Saturday marked the 16th meeting between Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who are 1-2 atop the career wins list among Division I men’s basketball coaches. Krzyzewski leads the head-to-head series 11-5.
“We’re really good friends, and that’s separate from basketball. When we come here, we want to win,” Boeheim said of facing Krzyzewski for the last time at Cameron Indoor Stadium. “There’s so many good memories, on the court, but more than many off the court.”
Duke hit 14 of 37 3-pointers (37.8%).
Duke: The Blue Devils bounced back from their loss to Florida State in an emphatic way, beating Syracuse in nearly every facet of the game. The Blue Devils were efficient in sharing the ball, too, totaling 25 assists on 30 made field goals for an 83% assist percentage, its best mark of the season.
“We have great players all over the floor,” Banchero said. “Everyone trusts each other to make shots, so we’re never hesitant to pass it for open looks.”
Syracuse: The Orange have lost five of their last seven games and their hopes of earning Boeheim another NCAA tournament berth are dwindling. Syracuse made just five 3-pointers, tied for its lowest of the season.
KEEL OUT, ROACH RESPONDS
Freshman guard Trevor Keels did not play for Duke as he recovers from a leg injury he suffered against Florida State. Krzyzewski said the injury shouldn’t be “long-term.”
In-place of Keels, sophomore Jeremy Roach started after three games of coming off the bench. He responded by dishing out a career-high nine assists, along with six points and three rebounds.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Duke held Syracuse to 17.2% shooting from behind the arc. The Blue Devils have held seven straight opponents — and 13 on the season — to 30% or worse from 3-point range. Duke entered the game ranking 41st nationally and second in the ACC in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 29.7% from deep this season.
Buddy Boeheim, the Orange’s leading scorer (19.2) was 2 of 15, including 1 of 10 from behind the arc. Joe Girard, who entered the game leading the ACC in 3-point shooting at 45.5% and was tied for the conference lead with 51 made 3s, was 1 of 9 from deep. Each scored seven points.
Duke finishes the week 1-1. The Blue Devils weren’t the only ranked team that lost this week though, as No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 4 Purdue were also among those who suffered defeats. Duke will likely be part of a reshuffling in the next poll.
Duke: Remaining at home, the Blue Devils host Clemson on Tuesday.
Syracuse: The Orange stay on the road, playing at Pitt on Tuesday.