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Syracuse entered the second quarter in its most comfortable position of the night against Duke. The Orange held a one-point lead after the first quarter and had a chance to extend it after Duke opened the second quarter 0-for-3. Najé Murray dribbled the ball forward for Syracuse and ignited its five-out motion offense.
The ball worked to Chrislyn Carr inside for a mid-range jumper that missed just seconds before the shot clock expired. Alaina Rice picked up the loose ball and opted for the putback layup that rolled off the rim. Still, Rice picked up another offensive rebound, her third of the game, before kicking the ball out to the wing.
But Chrislyn eventually got the ball and turned it over to Celeste Taylor, who found Onome Akinbode-James in transition for a layup.
What could’ve been a 4-point lead for Syracuse turned into a Duke lead that would remain for the rest of the outing. The Blue Devils spent the next five minutes on a 13-2 tear that saw the Orange shoot just 2-for-12, despite securing 11 rebounds, six of them coming on offense.
“(We) did a really good job inside,” acting head coach Vonn Read said. “We could’ve been a little bit better off offensively, making a few shots here and there, but I thought they fought pretty well inside.”
The end result demonstrated a similar trend as Syracuse (8-7, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) lost 74-65 to No. 17 Duke (11-2, 2-1 ACC) on Sunday. The Orange won the rebounding battle 47-35 and managed 19 more field goal attempts than the Blue Devils. But Duke shot 45.3% from the field while Syracuse made under a third of its attempts, letting shooting inconsistencies once again overcome improvements in the paint.
After Akinbode-James’ layup, Syracuse regained possession and missed three consecutive 2-pointers within a 12 second span. Still, Syracuse managed another two offensive rebounds, another from Rice — her fourth — before missing the close-range putback.
Former Syracuse commit Shayeann Day-Wilson prevented Rice from getting a third look at a bucket as she snatched the rebound. The Duke freshman took the ball into the Orange’s end, driving into the paint before kicking it out to Lexi Gordon who sunk a 3-pointer to extend Duke’s lead to four points.
Syracuse managed a season-high 25 offensive rebounds and allowed just 28 points in the paint after allowing 50 in its last two games. In its last two games, the Orange were outrebounded by a margin of over 15 — including 63-37 by then-No. 24 North Carolina. Duke entered the game ranked 28th in the country in 2-point percentage at 51.5%, per HerHoop Stats and was by far the tallest team SU had faced all season.
Alaysia Styles recorded her first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. As Syracuse’s tallest player at 6-foot-3 and its designated “center by committee,” Styles was the Orange’s most consistent threat in the paint when Syracuse needed it most.
She tied the game at 12-12 late in the first quarter, driving inside against 6-foot-5 Jade Williams, pivoting 180 degrees around her to secure the layup. Then, with Syracuse down by just eight points late in the third quarter, Styles jumped backwards to rebound a missed 2-pointer from Murray. She dribbled once and scored the close-range jumper through traffic to narrow Duke’s lead to 52-46.
Against teams where Styles knows she doesn’t have the size advantage, she finds it to play to her advantage, being able to drive by them faster. But Styles said that Syracuse showed improvement crashing the paint, something that can lead to more points — especially in the paint — going forward.
“If we crash (the paint), the odds of us getting rebounds is higher,” Styles said. “The difference between games in the past and today is that we all kind of did the little things, and one of those things is crashing for rebounds.”
Syracuse was 0-for-4 from the field when Gordon scored Duke’s opening 3-pointer in the second frame. Then it missed two more unanswered 3s from Teisha Hyman and Styles, which were both rebounded.
Hyman secured the rebound off of Styles’ miss, hauling the ball down, stepping back, crossing over and taking it to the basket for a layup. Syracuse went 0-for-6 from deep in the second but recorded an astounding eight offensive rebounds — including six from Rice, who led the Orange with a career-high 11 rebounds.
Syracuse has combined mass rebounding with consistent shooting in many of its victories this season, like its 40-point conference win over Clemson where it recorded 43 rebounds along with a 52.3% field goal percentage. The Orange feel comfortable about their shooting ability and know it’s something they can rely on, something they know will put them on the front foot in similarly close ACC games.
“Our opportunity was there. We just need to be better at making (shots),” Christianna Carr said. “When people see a loss and a lot of shot attempts they think of it as a bad thing. But I think it’s a good thing. The opportunity is there — we just have to be able to take it.”
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