Duke’s M.O. has been pretty simple this season. We have Zion Williamson and you don’t.
Well, Duke didn’t have Williamson Wednesday night against North Carolina, not after his left shoe exploded 30 seconds into the game, taking his right knee with it.
The result was an 88-72 North Carolina victory.
Mild-knee sprain is the diagnosis. Knee is stable. Down time? TBD.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
It’s tough to lose the presumptive national player of the year at the beginning of the game and Duke was never fully able to adjust on the fly. The Blue Devils were out of sync the entire first half, shooting 13-for-40 (32.5 percent) from the field, 2-20 on threes, with 10 turnovers.
“It puts everybody in the state of figuring it out,” Mike Krzyzewski said, “while you’re playing an outstanding team. That’s not a good situation. We were knocked back after that injury. You could see it.”
It seemed the same on the court.
“You go in with a game plan and 30 seconds in one of our key guys goes out and it’s tough to bounce back from that. North Carolina really punched us hard the whole way.”
Carolina was just as bad from beyond the arc, 1-for-14 in the first half. But they were lights out close to the basket, especially Luke Maye, who took Williamson’s absence like a kid with a key to the candy store.
The Tar Heels jumped to a 20-9 lead by the second media timeout, with Maye accounting for eight of those points.
Duke did have a run in it. Down 30-17, the Blue Devils outscored Carolina 15-7, to make it 37-32. But Barrett air-balled a three that would have cut the deficit to two. The visitors scored the final five points of the half, a back-breaking layup by Garrison Brooks at the buzzer making it 42-32.
Duke missed three shots and had a costly turnover in this disastrous 75-second span.
Barrett and Cam Reddish carried Duke offensively, combining for 28 first-half points. And Javin DeLaurier got a couple of high-energy baskets inside. But everyone else shot 0-for-13 in the first half, 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“I think we put a lot of pressure on our own shots,” Krzyzewski said. “We felt like ‘we got to hit, I have to hit.’ And we didn’t.”
Krzyzewski said the realization that Duke would be without Williamson hit during halftime and Duke was “horrible” in the early part of the second half. A 13-0 Carolina run made it 59-37, with 15:55 left.
Most of these were layups, either in transition or the half-court.
“Z normally gets a lot of blocks and rebounds and such,” Barrett said, “and having him out was tough. Nothing was falling. But that’s not an excuse. We still have to play better defense.”
Duke fought back fiercely over the final 16 minutes. But every time Duke looked poised to make a real dent in the deficit, something would go wrong, a missed foul shot, a charge, a Carolina layup. Duke got it to 13 several times but no closer.
“We’re going to have to come back tomorrow and regroup,” Barrett said,” and figure out how to bounce back against Syracuse. Trust in the coaches and we’ll go from there.”
One of the things the coaches will have to figure out is how to get points from someone other than Barrett and Reddish.
Barrett scored 33, Reddish a season-best 27. DeLaurier had six. Six points for your third-leading scorer isn’t going to get it done. Everyone not named Barrett, Reddish or DeLaurier shot a combined 1-for-24.
Krzyzewski acknowledged the importance of getting extra scorers but said he and his staff would have to figure it out later.
But Tre Jones has to be part of the solution. In perhaps his worst game this season, Jones hit 1-of-11 and turned it over three times, against five assists. He did have four steals. But it’s hard to say he disrupted an offense that scored 88 points and shot 36-of-55 on two-point shots.
“We’ve all just got to come together,” Jones said. “Tonight, I didn’t shoot the ball well at all and that’s totally my fault. Next game we’ll come back ready to go.”
Maye ended with 30 points, Cam Johnson with 26. Maye hit 14-of-24, chewing up anyone Duke sent to guard him.
“He’s a talented guy,” DeLaurier said of Maye. “He found his spots and hit his shots.”
DeLaurier was sporting a serious shiner after being elbowed by Seventh Woods. But he said his vision was fine and didn’t expect any long-term problems.
Duke had only nine assists against a season-high 20 turnovers. They also lost the rebounding battle 46-41, with Barrett grabbing 13.
This is the first time North Carolina has won two straight in the rivalry since the Hansbrough-Lawson teams won three straight in 2008-2009.
The Crazies did try to start a “Yes, We Can,” chant one time in the first half.
To no avail.
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Player Of The Game vs. UNC
This poll is closed
Alex O’ Connell
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