The Blue Devils got a huge bounce-back win Saturday night when they defeated Syracuse 75-65 in the Carrier Dome, but it’s the days preceding the game that will stick with Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Wednesday night – in one of the most highly anticipated college basketball games in recent memory – National Player of the Year candidate, Zion Williamson, went down with a knee injury in the first minute of play after his sneaker fell apart when he went to pivot. Williamson did not return to the contest and Duke would go on to lose to UNC 88-72.
News cycles after the game were filled with questions about player safety, the one-and-done rule and if Zion, the projected #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, should play another second of college basketball. Coach K says with the loss and the uproar that Zion’s injury caused, last Thursday was one of the toughest of his 38 years at Duke.
“Well, it is not just adjusting without Zion, the last 48 hours, everybody has opinions about everything. It is not just playing, its amateurism. Thursday for me, was one of the toughest 24 hours I have had as a coach at Duke. One, getting over the psychological stuff that happened to our team. We were not back. I met with almost every one of my guys individually. The three freshmen, together and just asking them ‘how did they feel’ and ‘how do they feel now’ and while trying to handle whatever else was happening. Thank goodness I have a great team around me – my support people. I asked my team, ‘we just went through hell these last 24 hours’, and I could depend on everybody. We need to be that team, where you can depend on everybody, and they were. I am really proud of my team.”
It has not been announced when Williamson will return – although he’s not expected to follow the advice of the many people who say he should rest the remainder of the college basketball season.
Next the Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg to take on the 20th ranked Virgina Tech Hokies this coming Tuesday.
- Freshman RJ Barrett recorded his second consecutive 30-point game, and sixth this season (one shy of tying the ACC freshman record held by Duke’s Marvin Bagley III) with 30 points on 14-of-20 shooting.
- Barrett’s 14 field goals set a career high. His previous high was 13 in the season-opener versus Kentucky.
- Barrett has scored 20+ points in 20 games this season, setting an ACC freshman record for most 20-point
games. The previous record of 19 games was held by Georgia Tech’s Kenny Anderson (1989-90).
- With 630 points, Barrett moves to fourth on Duke’s single-season freshman scoring list. He is 64 points shy of
tying the Duke freshman record set by Bagley (694) last season.
- Sophomore Alex O’Connell made his second career start (first this season) and scored a career-high 20 points
on a career-best 5-of-8 from three-point range.
- O’Connell’s 34 minutes matched a career-high he set earlier this season versus Syracuse.
- O’Connell’s six made field goals (6-of-9) were also a career high.
- Junior Marques Bolden had eight rebounds and four points in 10 minutes off the bench.
- Freshman Cam Reddish extended his streak of at least one made three-pointer to 13 consecutive games.
- Duke played without freshman Zion Williamson who missed his first game after sustaining a knee injury
Wednesday against North Carolina.