End of game situations haven’t always been kind to Duke’s Rodney Hood this season.
The Blue Devils first game against Syracuse, earlier this month, is a prime example when his contested dunk attempt didn’t go down.
Saturday night offered another chance, this time on defense, and the Blue Devils sophomore captain stood strong and tall.
With Duke up a basket and 10.4 seconds left, Hood slid into position to stop Syracuse forward C.J. Fair’s drive and induce a charging call that cemented No. 5 Duke’s 66-60 over the No. 1-ranked Orange in ACC basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The play, with Duke up 60-58, gave the ball back to the Blue Devils (22-6, 11-4 in ACC play) but that was only the start of it. Syracuse Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim’s objections to what he called “the worst call of the year” earned him two technical fouls and his first career regular-season ejection.
Duke hit six of seven free throw the rest of the game, three from Quinn Cook on the technical fouls, to avenge its Feb. 1 91-89 loss at Syracuse.
Hood’s defensive play, along with his 13 points, seven rebounds and 37 minutes of turnover-free play, allowed the Blue Devils to bounce back from Thursday night’s 74-66 loss at North Carolina.
“I mean we were going to him for the offensive side,” Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “He was doing it for us offensively the whole game. For him to sacrifice his body in the biggest part of the game — it won us the game. That’s the beauty of this team. You don’t’ know who is going to step up and make the big play, but somebody is going to do it. Today it was Rodney.”
As the Blue Devils sought to shake off the loss to the rival Tar Heels and face the nation’s No. 1 team less than 48 hours later, Hood described the team being in a “crisis” situation and that “the season was on the line.”
His help defense on Fair, who drove past guard Tyler Thornton to attempt a game-tying layup, helped Duke hold the line on its season.
“I just rejoiced,” Hood said when he saw Fair called for the foul. “It was a play by me. I wanted to be an active helper because I was on one of their non-shooters. I knew they were going to CJ. Tyler trusted me.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the other Hall of Fame coach in the star-studded matchup, was glad the 6-8 Hood earned redemption after his dunk attempt late in overtime was blocked by Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas at the Carrier Dome.
“Rodney, that part of the game was amazing,” Krzyzewski said. “The basketball gods, they are the best. They put Rodney in the two defining plays. The dunk that was maybe a foul up there. And the charge, which I think was a charge. Anyway, he was in the play.”
Duke shot just 41 percent in the first half and never led before tying the game 26-all at intermission.
The Blue Devils took their first lead on an Amile Jefferson free throw on their first possession after halftime
Unlike the game at the Carrier Dome, when Duke made 15 3-pointers, Syracuse (25-2, 12-2) chose to defend the perimeter players closer in this game. In response, Duke moved Hood to the middle of the offense against the Orange’s famed 2-3 zone while putting Jabari Parker on the perimeter.
Parker hit 6 of 9 shots, including all three of his 3-pointers, to lead Duke with 19 points.
But Hood became a key factor as he was able to get the ball in the lane and maneuver his way for baskets or fouls or kick-out passes.
He scored two consecutive Duke baskets that were followed by a Quinn Cook 3-pointer which put the Blue Devils up 51-45 with 7:41 left.
A Parker one-handed follow slam off a Hood missed 3-pointer with 4:25 left gave Duke a 55-49 lead.
But in a game that saw eight ties and seven lead changes, more drama was destined to follow.
A layup by Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, who scored just seven points on 2 of 13 shooting, followed by a Jeremi Grant running jumper in transition cut Duke’s lead to 55-53.
With 2:49 left, Hood took a feed from Rasheed Sulaimon in the lane, drove into the heart of the Orange defense and found a way to score in traffic giving Duke a 57-53 lead.
That basket proved huge when the Orange scored the next three points on free throws to trail 57-56 at the two-minute mark
Parker’s bank shot in the lane was countered by a Christmas dunk off an Ennis pass with 36 seconds.
Sulaimon made one of two free throws with 24.9 seconds, giving Duke a 60-58 lead and setting up the play Hood’s defensive play on Fair that decided the game and extended Duke’s home-court winning streak to 31 games.
“The biggest thing is we didn’t let our offense affect our defense,” Hood said. “I started off the half a couple of short shots. We kept defending them. They are good players — 1-5 they can play. We stayed true to our game plan. We protected our basket. That was the biggest thing. We played together on the defensive end. This has got to be the start of something new.”
|No. 5 DUKE 66, No. 1 SYRACUSE 60|
Percentages: FG .387, FT .714.
3-Point Goals: 2-9, .222 (Gbinije 2-4, Ennis 0-2, Cooney 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Ennis, Christmas).
Turnovers: 8 (Fair 4, Ennis 2, Keita 2).
Steals: 9 (Ennis 4, Gbinije 2, Cooney 2, Fair).
Technical Fouls: Coach 2.
Percentages: FG .479, FT .520.
3-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Parker 3-3, Cook 2-8, Thornton 1-1, Hood 1-6, Sulaimon 0-1, Dawkins 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 4 (Plumlee 3, Parker).
Turnovers: 11 (Parker 5, Sulaimon 2, Jefferson 2, Thornton, Plumlee).
Steals: 4 (Thornton 3, Cook).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Roger Ayers, Tony Greene, Jamie Luckie.