Duke ready for Syracuse as both teams deal with injuries

Now it may be Syracuse that's short-handed for a matchup with Duke.

The teams meet Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.

Duke is expected to have freshman forward Zion Williamson back in action for the first time since Feb. 20, though no official announcement has come.

But Syracuse could be without scoring leader Tyus Battle, a guard who missed the Orange's 73-59 victory late Wednesday night against Pittsburgh.

Battle was out with a bruised back suffered Saturday at Clemson. It's likely he could miss another game, his coach said.

"He's probably realistically two or three days away from being able to play, I think," Jim Boeheim said, though he pointed out that the expectation earlier in the week was that he might be available for the tournament opener.

Fifth-ranked Duke (26-5) and Syracuse (20-12) split two regular-season games, with Syracuse winning 95-91 in overtime at Duke in a game when Blue Devils forward Cam Reddish was out sick and point guard Tre Jones missed most of the game with a separated shoulder following a collision with Syracuse's Frank Howard.

Williamson didn't play in the Feb. 23 rematch, which was won 75-65 by Duke at the Carrier Dome.

Williamson's return for third-seeded Duke is much-anticipated. Beginning with the first North Carolina game when he exited in the opening minute with a sprained knee when his basketball shoe ripped open, the Blue Devils are 3-3 in a six-game stretch.

"I think we'll get Zion back for Thursday," Krzyzewski said following Saturday night's regular-season finale at North Carolina. "The way he looks right now, I think it's just a matter of getting in shape, getting in game shape."

The Blue Devils have looked rather ordinary without the standout forward, who has averaged 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He was in the news earlier this week when he was named the ACC Player of the Year.

"We view these games the same whether we have him or not," Jones said. "We don't know when exactly we will get him back, but as a team we have to keep playing and keep getting better for the postseason. ... It's win or go home and with or without him we have to keep fighting every game and keep trying to get better."

Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils should receive a significant boost from Williamson.

"We've been good, not real good, without Zion," Krzyzewski said. "The kids have fought, but it's inconsistent. It's not at the level that's needed to win a championship."

Duke still has weapons. Forward RJ Barrett, who averages a league-leading 23.4 points per game, and Reddish have been the primary scorers.

"Regular season just ended," Barrett said. "How we see it, it's 0-0 and we are going to go out and compete."

Krzyzewski said during the 18-game ACC regular-season schedule that the Blue Devils were at full strength for about half those games.

Now, they'll probably be without center Marques Bolden, who departed Saturday night's game at North Carolina with what was diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Sixth-seeded Syracuse found the right combination to withstand 14th-seed Pittsburgh, with freshman guard Buddy Boeheim -- the coach's son -- making his first career start and scoring a season-high 20 points.

"His mother tells me he should be playing more all the time, every day," Jim Boeheim said. "But he has been well-prepared to be able to step up in this kind of game."

The Orange also received 18 points apiece from Frank Howard and Elijah Hughes.

"When you lose your best players, somebody has to step up," Jim Boeheim said. "These two guys did a great job."

--Field Level Media
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