Five takeaways from Duke's win over Syracuse on Saturday

Duke vs. Syracuse - 2/24/18 College Basketball Pick, Odds, and Prediction

After missing the Blue Devils' previous four games with a minor knee sprain, the 6-11, 234-pound freshman will return to action when Duke takes on ACC foe Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 6:15 p.m. ET Saturday.

Despite Bagley's importance to the team, the 23-5 Blue Devils went a ideal 4-0 during his absence with victories over Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Louisville.

In doing so, the Blue Devils turned a 9-point halftime lead into another convincing win - its fifth in a row.

Duke's Grayson Allen had no trouble connecting with Bagley. Allen had grown timid in recent weeks, but Bagley's injury created a gaping need for other members on the roster to step up and carry some of the load.

Both teams struggled miserably shooting the basketball from the outside.

Bolden added 7 points and 6 rebounds in 12 minutes after coming off nose surgery earlier this week.

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"That was the reason that I sat out a lot of the games - to make sure that I was ready to come back and play a lot like that", Bagley said. Clearly there's a long way to go, but Duke's marked improvement in this regard bodes well heading into the final month of the season.

Tyus Battle's 12 points and Frank Howard's 11 points paced Syracuse (18-11, 7-9), which had three of its six 3-point baskets in the final three minutes. Krzyzewski's decision to switch to a zone defense has given new life to his group on the defensive end. The 2015 Blue Devils made a late-season adjustment in switching to a zone defense, and rode that wave to a national title. Sophomore Javin DeLaurier started again in Bagley's place.

The reserves were able to give the starters breaks at times during the game.

That will be necessary as Duke heads into conference play and the NCAA tournament. Against Clemson on February 18, Duke gave up 57 points.

Against Virginia Tech on February 14, Duke gave up 52 points. Against Louisville on February 21, Duke gave up 56 points. All of those performances have resulted in wins. "You can look at all the stats, we're in the top three or four in just about everything in our conference and nationally we've gone up tremendously because we've been working on it". Two possessions later, DeLaurier followed up another missed 3 by Allen with a stickback dunk that pushed the lead into double figures for the first time.

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