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College basketball: Syracuse defeats Duke to go 21-0


SYRACUSE — Rasheed Sulaimon temporarily delayed a wild celebration by a record Syracuse crowd.

But not even a near half-court heave by the Duke sophomore to send the game into overtime could deny the Orange a piece of history Saturday and keep their season-long win streak alive.

Sophomore Jerami Grant scored eight of his career-high 24 points in overtime, and senior C.J. Fair also reached a career-high with 28 points as No. 2 SU edged Duke 91-89 in a magical game that more than lived up to all of the pregame hype.

With 35,446 spurring the Orange on in a raucous Carrier Dome, SU improved to 21-0 overall (8-0 in the ACC), marking the best start in school history. It also began one of the burgeoning rivalries in the country with the two winningest coaches in Division I history on the sidelines.

“Two unbelievable teams. A great game. An amazing atmosphere. That’s why you come to Syracuse,”’ said Grant, who also grabbed 12 rebounds in a heroic 40-minute performance. “They made a lot of great plays and so did we. It just came down to who made the last one.”

SU, which seized the lead in the first half and led most of the second half, seemingly had the game in hand when freshman point guard Tyler Ennis (14 points, 9 assists) made two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation to give SU a 78-75 lead.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Sulaimon headed toward half court and Fair tried unsuccessfully to foul him. Sulaimon took a few steps over mid-court and let fly a desperation 3-pointer that went straight in as the final buzzer sounded.

“I just avoided the foul and it looked good all the way,” said Sulaimon, who led Duke (17-5, 6-3) with 16 points. “After that I really felt it was our game to win.”

But the Orange, which has won a half dozen close games in the final minutes already this season, believed otherwise.

“Coach told us it was a new game, and that we’ve been in this situation many times before,” Ennis said. “We felt like we could score enough to win (in overtime). It was just a case of finally getting a few stops.”

Duke’s Andre Dawkins hit a 3-pointer to begin overtime. But Ennis fed Grant on an isolation for a dunk, and those two combined on the same play twice more over the next few minutes.

“They were playing a smaller defender on me, and Tyler recognized that mismatch right away,” said Grant, who was 7-for-11 from the floor and made all 10 of his free throws. “There’s nobody I’d rather have getting me the ball than him.”

Another Dawkins three gave Duke its final lead at 87-84. But Ennis brought SU to within 87-86 with 1:11 left with two free throws, setting up another riveting finish.

Dawkins finally missed from long range, Ennis fed Grant yet again and the lanky 6-foot-8 forward calmly hit both foul shots to put SU ahead 88-87.

SU junior forward Rakeem Christmas (7 points, 10 rebounds) then made the defensive play of the game, forcing Rodney Hood to miss a flying dunk.

Ennis went to the line for two free throws at the 12.2-second mark and hit both. SU decided to foul this time, and Sulaimon hit a pair of foul shots with 9.4 seconds to go to make it a one-point game again.

“The second time we weren’t going to let him get off a shot,” said SU coach Jim Boeheim. “We probably could have waited a little longer, but we didn’t want to take another chance.”

Fair made one of two foul shots with 5.5 seconds left. Junior guard Quinn Cook ended up with the ball as the clock wound down and had to force up an off-balance 3-pointer that was long as the final buzzer sounded.

“No matter what team was down, the other made play after play,” Boeheim said. “That was two of the best defensive teams in our league and we both scored almost 90 points.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski echoed Boeheim’s sentiments about this being one for the history books.

“That’s two great teams playing as hard and as well as they could for 45 minutes,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t have any answer for Fair or Grant. But our kids were so resilient in a tough environment.”

Fair, living up to his ACC Preseason Player of the year billing, took over midway through the second half, scoring eight straight points and 11 of 14 at one point.

“Once I got the hot hand I just went for it,” Fair said. “The more they pressured me, the easier it was for me to drive to the basket.”

Boeheim said Fair “went from being a very solid player to a phenomenal player tonight. Jerami picked it up when we needed him, and Tyler demonstrated why there is nobody better in end-of-game situations.”

“That’s by far the best we’ve played on offense all year,” said Boeheim, whose club was aggressive and made 26 of its 32 free throws. “We wanted to drive it and make them defend us at several positions.”

Duke freshman sensation Jabari Parker scored 15 points before fouling out with just under two minutes left in regulation. Center Emile Jefferson gave Duke a huge lift by scoring 14 points. But he also fouled out in the final minute of regulation.

Added Boeheim: “We’ve had a lot of great games here with record crowds. There’s never been one as great as that one.”

SU is right back in the Dome on Monday night, hosting Notre Dame at 7 p.m.

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