By JOEDY McCREARY
The Associated Press
DURHAM, N.C. — No. 5 Duke and Syracuse spent much of Saturday night confounding each other’s outside shooters with their zone defenses.
The key difference: The Blue Devils could pound the ball inside to Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr.
Bagley had 19 points in his return from a sprained knee, Carter added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Duke beat Syracuse 60-44 for its fifth straight win.
“We just try to play off of each other,” Bagley said. “We’ve got this thing rolling now, and they’ve had it rolling for the last four games. We’re all back, and we’re ready to continue to finish out this season.”
Running a zone defense — a development that in the past might have been anathema to man-to-man disciple Mike Krzyzewski — the Blue Devils (24-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) forced 17 turnovers and the Orange matched their season-low scoring total, set Feb. 3 in a loss to No. 1 Virginia.
“I don’t think that Coach K should really be allowed to play zone,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim joked.
Duke pulled away down the stretch after leaning hard on the two freshman big men in a game in which the guards on both teams struggled with their shots from the perimeter against their dueling zone defenses. The teams combined to miss their first 23 3-pointers.
“We didn’t let what we couldn’t do on the offensive end affect what we did on the defensive end,” Krzyzewski said.
Bagley, the ACC’s leading scorer (21.2 ppg) and rebounder (11.4 rpg), missed four games after injuring his right knee in a loss at North Carolina on Feb. 8.
Tyus Battle, who ranks third in the league with an average of 20.1 points per game, scored 12 while Frank Howard added 11 and Paschal Chukwu had 12 rebounds. The Orange (18-11, 7-9) lost their third in four games.