''Sometimes teams will do that,'' Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ''They'll come out real hot, but it's a long game. You've got to keep your composure. I got real mad about it, though.''
So did the Blue Devils, who demonstrated why they're one of the top teams in the nation.
Tricia Liston had 20 points and eight rebounds to lead six players in double figures as Duke beat Syracuse 86-53 on Thursday night, spoiling the Orange's first home game in the Atlantic Coast Conference
Duke (15-1, 2-0) has beaten four ranked opponents this season- California, Purdue, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Syracuse (11-4, 0-2), ranked as high as 20th this season, dropped out of the poll this week after consecutive losses to No. 23 Arizona State and North Carolina State, now ranked No. 20.
The highest-ranked team a Syracuse women's squad has beaten was No. 2 Connecticut, 62-59 in January 1996, long before Orange coach Quentin Hillsman took over. He was dismayed the Orange didn't nab another big win.
''They did a phenomenal job tonight of being who they are, an elite program and No. 3 in the country,'' said Hillsman, in his eighth season. ''We've got to find a way when we have a chance to play great teams to play hard, be competitive and win these basketball games. Games like this are program-changing wins. We had a big opportunity tonight and we didn't take advantage of it. It's my responsibility. It's all on me.''
Elizabeth Williams added 14 points and 11 rebounds for Duke, which has only lost to top-ranked UConn 83-61 in December.
Alexis Jones had 13 points and seven assists for the Blue Devils. Williams blocked four shots, extending her streak of at least one block in 85 straight games.
Brianna Butler led Syracuse with 14 points, going 4 of 12 on 3-pointers. Shakeya Leary had eight points and 11 rebounds. But La'Shay Taft, who entered the game with 21 3-pointers on the season, finished 1 of 13 from behind the arc as the Orange went 8 of 38 (21.1 percent) for the game.
''The players just adjusted a little bit,'' McCallie said.
Syracuse was holding opponents to 29.9 percent shooting on 3s, but the Blue Devils hit 4 of 6 in the opening half and finished 6 of 12.
The Orange entered the game 7-0 this season in the Carrier Dome and seeking a signature win to vault them back into the national rankings. Syracuse made it clear it would try to win the game from the perimeter and started well as Butler made two and Rachel Coffey and Isabella Slim each had one.
Butler's second 3-pointer gave Syracuse a 19-12 lead less than 5 minutes in. But the Orange missed seven of their next eight from behind the arc and the Blue Devils capitalized with a 15-2 spurt to zoom to a lead they never relinquished.
A reverse layup by Williams and a driving layup by Jones completed the Duke run and gave the Blue Devils a 27-21 lead midway through the period.
''We were getting a little impatient on offense and we had some silly turnovers,'' Liston said. ''But once we started working the ball around and getting in a rhythm, we started having assist after assist, easy shot and easy baskets.''
Duke finished with 27 assists on its 38 baskets and outscored Syracuse 56-20 inside.
''We've got to get the ball inside-out,'' Williams said. ''They're just higher-percentage shots. Working the ball around and getting into the paint is important to us. Coach just told me to slow down a little bit.''
Brittney Sykes, who finished with eight points, rallied the Orange, converting a baseline drive and a layup to bring Syracuse within four with under 2 minutes to play in the opening half.
But Liston hit her fourth 3 and Jones followed with a shot off the glass in the final minute to send the Blue Devils into the locker room with a 43-34 lead.
The Blue Devils took command in the second with an 18-7 run keyed by a 3-pointer from Jones and Liston's three-point play.
''We got really good shots, but they got the ball where they could attack us and make plays,'' Hillsman said. ''I don't feel overmatched. I think we have the talent. It's got to be about effort. I'm looking at the 3s we took and I thought they were good shots. They were open, and they were taken by the right two people.''