DURHAM, N.C. - Along the path to an epic rematch of an instant classic, Syracuse-Duke Part II turned into a game of survival.
Oh, it still could be a great game to watch. Their first meeting on Feb. 1 before 35,446 fans in the Carrier Dome was ESPN's third most viewed regular season men's college basketball game on record.
Big shots followed by bigger shots finally culminated in a 91-89 overtime victory for the Orange. The moment it ended, it arguably ranked at the top of a short list for best college basketball games this season.
The beauty of potentially seeing another classic, though, is replaced by a cold reality. Either the Orange, who lost in overtime to Boston College 62-59 on Wednesday, or the Blue Devils, who lost to North Carolina 74-66 on Thursday, will walk away from Saturday having dropped consecutive games.
Think about that for a second. No. 1 Syracuse raced to a 25-0 start and could leave its first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium as the No. 2 team in the ACC. Those close losses it won would turn into told-you-sos about its vulnerability.
After Wednesday's loss, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told reporters his team has had only two easy games in the ACC and has "been in trouble in all 11" of the remaining games.
"It's not like we've won seven or eight and had two or three close games," Boeheim said. "We've had 11 games like that. That's just who we are."
No. 5 Duke had won nine of 10 games before its loss in Chapel Hill. It could watch its ascension to becoming an elite 2013-14 team snowball in the other direction with a second loss in three days.
"[Carolina] was a very important game to us, but now we just have to move on; we have Syracuse," Duke freshman Jabari Parker said. "We have to learn from our mistakes -- we had a lot of mistakes. We can't afford to do that again, especially Saturday and the rest of the season."
The Blue Devils have won their past 30 games in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which is tied with Florida and Stephen F. Austin for the longest active streak in Division I.
Being at home might help Duke recapture and sustain the drive that was missing in the closing minutes against North Carolina. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was baffled as to why his team didn't "ante up" in the second half.
"We've been in a lot of big games, our guys have played great. ..." Krzyzewski said. "It's just about getting it to a certain level that you have to be at in a game like this. Hopefully that's a good learning experience for our team. It's still a long season, and the most important part is coming up in about a month."
While Duke is searching for heart, Syracuse is trying to locate its scoring. The difference for the Orange is their remaining schedule will make that scoring harder to find, Three of their last four games are on the road, including some places known for defense: Virginia and Florida State.
Syracuse hasn't eclipsed 60 points in any of its past four games. It has surpassed the 70-point mark only twice in ACC play.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Syracuse is shooting just 14.6 percent in shots outside the paint over its past two games. That included forward C.J. Fair going 1-of-15 over those two games.
"Earlier in the year, everyone was in a good flow and everyone was in a good rhythm, and we're not on that anymore," guard Trevor Cooney told reporters after the Boston College loss. "We just got to find it and get back into it. We're a good offensive team, we've had games where we put up a lot of points. We can do it, we've just to get back on it."
The Duke game was Syracuse's last productive offensive performance. The Orange shot a season-high 57.4 percent from the field against the Blue Devils en route to their third-highest point total this season.
"I think we work too hard for our points," Fair said. "We've got to get some easy buckets going, and that will open up things."
It's never easy in Cameron for opponents. Duke has been swept in a regular-season series just four times since 1996-97. The Orange will attempt to become just the third school to accomplish the feat joining North Carolina (2006-07, 2008-09) and Maryland (2004-05, 2006-07.)