Basketball

RJ Barrett leads top-ranked Duke to win over Syracuse

Mississauga, Ont., freshman forward RJ Barrett scored 30 points to lead the Duke Blue Devils to a 75-65 victory over the Syracuse Orange.

Jim Boeheim returns to Syracuse bench after fatal accident

Duke Blue Devils freshman RJ Barrett scored 30 points in their win over the Syracuse Orange on Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y. (Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

No matter the outcome, Jim Boeheim needed this.

Three days after the Hall of Fame coach of the Syracuse Orange struck and killed a pedestrian on a darkened highway that leads out of town, he returned to the bench Saturday night in Syracuse, N.Y.

Boeheim's first public appearance since the Wednesday night accident that killed 51-year-old Jorge Jimenez came in a 75-65 loss to top-ranked Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski, a close friend.

The 74-year-old Boeheim, in his 43rd season as head coach at his alma mater, had addressed the team Thursday but did not take part in practice. Although he returned for practice Friday, he had not appeared in public until he made his way into the Carrier Dome to a big ovation from a record crowd. Head down, Boeheim made his way to centre court and acknowledged the crowd with a brief wave before giving Krzyzewski a heartfelt hug.

Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim returned to the bench Saturday night, three days after he hit and killed a pedestrian on a darkened highway in New York State. (Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

The accident happened after the Orange's 20-point victory over No. 18 Louisville. Police say Jimenez was a passenger in a car that apparently skidded out of control on a patch of ice and hit a guardrail. Police say Jimenez was trying to get to safety when he was struck by Boeheim's SUV. Boeheim had swerved to avoid the disabled car, which was resting perpendicular across two lanes.

Jimenez was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another man in the car suffered minor injuries. A moment of silence was observed before the game for Jimenez and his family.

Police say Boeheim has co-operated and sobriety tests administered to Boeheim and the unidentified driver of the other vehicle were negative for any signs of impairment. No tickets have been issued and the investigation is continuing. Police Chief Kenton T. Buckner said Thursday night at a news conference there was "no reason to believe that there are criminal charges that will be coming for anyone."

Once the game started, it seemed like just another tilt featuring the two winningest coaches in NCAA Division I history, except for the massive record crowd that made the dome's walls shake every time the Orange scored. The top-ranked Blue Devils (24-3, 12-2) improved to 7-0 on the road in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In the first game between the teams, the Orange (18-8, 9-4) pulled off the upset, 95-91 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, as Tyus Battle scored a season-high 32 points and Syracuse used its 2-3 zone defence to rattle Duke in overtime.

Swingman Cameron Reddish was out with an illness and point guard Tre Jones suffered a shoulder injury roughly 5 1/2 minutes in to put Duke down two starters in that one. It was a completely different team, just like it was on Saturday without injured freshman star Zion Williamson, who had a season-high 35 points in that first game.

WATCH | Zion Williamson's shoe explodes in loss to UNC:

Canadian freshman star RJ Barrett matched a season best with 33 points but the No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 1 Duke 88-72 on Wednesday night in Durham, NC. 1:49

Canadian freshman forward RJ Barrett scored 30 points to lead Duke and Alex O'Connell had 20. The Mississauga, Ont., native had a triple-double and double-double in Duke's previous two games.

Tyus Battle led Syracuse with 16 points on 4-of-17 shooting, Elijah Hughes had 12, and Marek Dolezaj and Frank Howard had 10 apiece. Toronto's Oshae Brissett had seven points and six rebounds.

O'Connell's four-point play early in the second half gave Duke a two-point lead and neither team led by more than four over the ensuing five minutes. O'Connell's fifth 3-pointer of the game, a career high, and Barrett's layup gave the Blue Devils a 58-52 edge with 9:16 to go.

Two free throws by Hughes narrowed the lead to two, but Barrett drained a 3, O'Connell followed with a steal and dunk, and Barrett converted a lob from Jones to give the Blue Devils a 65-56 lead with 4:45 left and the Orange never got closer than five the rest of the game.

Syracuse led nearly the entire first half and went into the locker room with a 34-29 lead. Barrett kept the Blue Devils in the game with 17 points in the opening period.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.