(4) DUKE v. (3) SYRACUSE
Syracuse earned its first ACC Tournament championship in a 15-14 victory over Duke. Kevin Rice had three goals and four assists to lead the Orange while Jack Bruckner had five goals in a sublime effort for the Blue Devils. The win for the Orange may have provided a path for the program to the top seed in the NCAA Tournament in May.
Tim Barber used a vicious dodge to leave his defender locked in an alternate timeline to give Syracuse its game-winning goal with 3:15 remaining in regulation. The marker capped a short two-goal run for the Orange that started with a Nicky Galasso finish on a Rice helper about four minutes prior to Barber's decisive tally. The push would prove important for the Orange as Duke answered Syracuse's rush with consecutive buckets from Thomas Zenker and Myles Jones in a 34-second span, the latter goal featuring Jones doing what Jones does better than any player in Division I lacrosse: Utilizing the physics of being built like a concrete destruction machine, Jones bulled his man and pushed his way to space to put the ball past Bobby Wardwell, drawing the Devils within one with 2:32 remaining in regulation.
Duke's charge, though, would end with Jones' hammer. The Blue Devils would essentially dominate possession the rest of the way but Duke was unable to find twine in two offensive opportunities the proceeded Jones' target. The first offensive opportunity -- earned from a faceoff victory following Jones' score -- ended when the Orange defense blocked a shot -- the bouncer got lost in a sea of defenders and poaching offensive weapons -- and corralled the loose ball to start its clear. A strong and desperate ride from Duke blew the clear, giving the Devils another chance to knot the scoreboard and force overtime. The Blue Devils took a timeout to set up its look and the result was Case Matheis curling from X with a step on his defender, generating a solid look that ultimately sailed high and over Bobby Wardwell's stick, rolling toward the endline. Syracuse won the back-up when Kyle Keenan fell and ran out the clock, the final seconds bleeding into Syracuse's record book as the Orange stormed the field to celebrate its strong two-game effort at PPL Park.
The final score did not replicate the early volition of the game. Duke raced out to a 6-2 lead after the first quarter, shooting six-of-eight in the initial period while dissecting Syracuse's defense with precision and force. Justin Guterding and Bruckner each had two goals in the first period to help build the Blue Devils' advantage. The second quarter featured a concentrated comeback from the Orange with Syracuse ripping off five straight goals to earn a 7-6 advantage for the higher seeded Orange. The scoring streak for Syracuse came in an 11:03 span, capitalizing on an 11:43 scoring drought for Duke that eventually broke at the 5:38 mark of the second stanza when Guterding found the back of the net on an easy overhand finish. The Orange would pivot from the Devils' goal to pound in the next two goals of the game to take a 9-7 lead into the intermission.
Much of the second half featured elastic momentum with Syracuse never trailing and Duke never falling behind by more than three goals (and that happened only once). The Blue Devils were able to pull within one of Syracuse three times over the last 30 minutes of play, including when the final gun sounded, but were never able to break through.