|Zion Williamson slams one home. @DukeMBB.|
The Duke Blue Devils beat the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 69-58, at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night in the Ameritas Insurance Classic.
The story heading into the night was Duke's star freshman Zion Williamson, who is projected to be the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and couls possibly wind up calling The Garden home if the Knicks call his name.
Williamson made his presence felt immediately when he blocked Tariq Owens layup on the first possession of the game 32 seconds in.
The Garden was then rocking when he slammed home an alley-oop at the 16:35 mark that made it 8-0 Duke.
At that point, Texas Tech called a timeout and they responded with a 12-2 run to take the lead and they led the way for most of the rest of the first half, and took a 29-28 lead into halftime.
Williamson was limited to 12 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, with the second and third ones taken 19 seconds apart, and leaving him on the bench for the final 3:21. He had 11 points on 4-5 from the field, with 6 rebounds and an assist in the opening stanza.
Duke was trailling by as much as eight points, 42-34, in the opening minutes of the second half, and it wasn't long before Williamson made his mark.
With Duke down 45-40 at the 11:54 mark, Williamson got three offensive rebounds in a row and found his way to the free throw line, where he made a pair of free throws.
That was the start of a 9-1 run for Duke that was capped by an RJ Barrett fast break layup at the 8:51 mark that gave them a 49-46 lead.
Jack White was key for Duke down the stretch, and his three gave Duke the lead, 56-55, with 6:04 left.
Williamson followed that up with a pair of free throws, then at the 3:51 mark, he drove the lane, and Brandone Francis drew the charge.
This was Williamson's fifth and final foul of the game, and he exited after scoring 17 points (4-9 FG, 0-2 three-pointers) with 13 rebounds and an assist.
"It's not a challenge, it's an amazing opportunity," Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said of what it's like to coach the 6-7, 285-pound freshman from Spartanburg, South Carolina. "Imagine if you were doing one of these Broadway shows, and all of a sudden, you found a singer and a dancer, holy mackrel, now you got, it makes you think I gotta get better, I gotta figure this out - that's exciting. Coaching him is all exciting."
After Williamson exited, Duke closed the game on a 9-2 run, led by Cam Reddish, who had five of his eight second-half points down the stretch.
This was quite a defensive battle, as Duke and Texas Tech shot nearly identically from the field. Duke shot 38.3 percent (23-60), while Texas Tech shot 38.6 percent, or 22-57, from the field.
Coach K said of the win, "It was a great, great game. Tough to score for both teams, both teams are such good defensive teams and played their butts off and The Garden was electric. Sellout (19.812). Texas Tech had so many of their people. We had ours. This is a great night for college basketball. Things didn't come easy offensively for either team and we'd been scoring at a high rate, but we hadn't played against a defense like theirs and they probably hadn't plaued against a defense like ours."
Duke freshman forward RJ Barrett finished with 16 points, 10 of which came in the second half, with 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist, but coughed up 6 turnovers. He recovered from a first half in which he shot 3-14 from the field.
Krzyzewski said of Barrett, "I love RJ. RJ's big time. There are just times where you're not going to be able to score. He was missing some shots that he's normally make and they were making him take some shots that were a lot more pressured. It's a combination, but he had some open looks, but once he was missing, he was I call it a 'gunny sack' or taking the misses with you where you know put pressure on yourself to score because you haven't. And you can't do that. And that's what I talked about at halftime. We just said 'everybody is 0-for-0. Just start off fresh. You're not allowed to try and make up for missed shots."
Duke point guard Tre Jones was instrumental in the victory, as he had 13 points (6-15 FG, 0-2 threes), with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and most remarkably, 6 steals.
"Tre was the key to the game," Coach K said. "He just turned it around for us with six steals, usually he's not looking for his shot, he willed balls in and all of our guys just fed off of that. It was magnificent to see. He did a hell of a job, as good on the ball as we've had starting with Amaker, Hurley, Wojo, Dujon. He's right there and tonight, maybe better. I know I'll get texts from all those guys tonight."
On where Jones ranks in terms of freshman point guards who can run an offense,Krzyzewski said, "Well we've had a few. We have a few on this team. Well his brother. One of the best things, whether I'm coaching the USA Team or a Duke team is having the ability to improvise or make reads that you would make after a timeout. Tre gives me the opportunity to do that. He's a godsend for me. I'm so excited about coaching him. It's like coaching on the U.S. team, you have LeBron, Chris Paul, thet make real-time (adjustments). There aren't many who can get their teams to do that. Tre can do that. He's got it. What he did tonight was one of the best performances. It was a big, big time performance by that kid."
Jones said of what anchored the team's defensive performance, "For sure, the effort. We talk all the time about pressuring the ball and (Coach K has) been on that since he's been recruiting me about my ball pressure and how I can defend, so I was kind of here but then it's not only me, but we have a lot of guys that can defend on our team and they make my job a lot easier."
Coach K said of the last time he had a player like Jones that can play perimeter defense so well, "Probably (Chris) Duhon. I know (Jon) Scheyer and Nolan Smith are going to say they did, but they didn't like that. It's special and he's strong. If you moved his legs together he'd be about 6-foot-4 he's so bowlegged. He's strong and when he plays he smiles. He loves to play defense."
White, whose family from Australia was on hand for the game, had 8 points on the night, all in the second half, on 2-3 from the field (both from behind the arc), with 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Texas Tech Head Coach Chris Beard said of Duke, "A really good defensive team. I think because they have the hall-of-fame coach and great players, everybody talks about the talent, the offense. It's tough defense. They make it very difficult for you to run your offense and it kind of turns into a dribble-drive type of game."
Texas Tech was led by Jarrett Culver, who had 25 points (9-21 FG, 4-9 threes), 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, with 2 steals, but he committed 6 turnovers. He was the Red Raiders' only player to score in double figures.
Beard said of Culver, "He's one of the best guys in college basketball...The secret is out. Jarrett Culver is a great player. And, what makes him really special is the kind of person he is, his character. He's the real deal.
"The guy is an old school student of the game. He's in the film room more than anybody I've ever coached. He always wants to get better. He's that fine balance between confident and killer, but he's also the nicest guy in the world. He's going to kill you in one-one-one at 10:30 A.M. on Sunday, then he's going to help you go to church at 11:15. He's special."