NEW YORK (AP) No. 7 Duke began coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final New York Life ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament with a tougher-than-expected 88-79 victory Thursday over ninth-seeded Syracuse, which was playing without suspended star Buddy Boeheim.
Wendell Moore Jr. scored 26 points and Jeremy Roach had 17 in the second half as top-seeded Duke (27-5) hung on to advance to Friday’s semifinals at Barclays Center against the winner of Miami-Boston College.
Coming off a jarring loss to end the regular season against North Carolina in Coach K’s Cameron send off, Duke looked like a team still trying to find its March form.
The Blue Devils couldn’t shake the Orange until they closed the game on a 10-0 run.
All-American Paolo Banchero made a tough shot in the lane with 2:13 left to put Duke up 82-79. Roach hit an open 3 about a minute later and Mark Williams’ breakaway dunk made the lead eight with 48 second left.
The loss leaves Syracuse (16-17) with a losing record. With the NCAA Tournament out of the question and the NIT highly unlikely, the Orange are looking at their first sub-.500 season in 46 seasons under coach Jim Boeheim.
Playing without ACC leading scorer Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse got a lift from from big brother Jimmy Boeheim, who scored a season-high 28 points and was 6 for 9 from 3.
Duke shot over Syracuse’s 2-3 zone early, taking 13 3-pointers in its first 18 shots and making six to build an 11-point lead.
The Blue Devils missed their next nine 3-point attempts and Syracuse, coming out of its traditional zone, made a run behind Joe Girard that gave the Orange a 40-36 halftime lead in front of a partisan Orange crowd at Barclays Center.
Girard, who came in averaging 13.5 per game, did his best ”Buddy Buckets” impersonation, scoring 18 in the first half, including a corner 3 at the buzzer. The junior guard ran off the floor waving on the Syracuse fans to bring the noise.
Syracuse upped the lead to seven early in the second half, but Duke started getting the ball inside and a fourth foul on Cole Swider with 15:00 left put the Orange in a precarious spot.
Swider scored 15 and Girard finished with 23.