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After an early exit for Zion Williamson (mild knee sprain), UNC prevails over Duke 88-72

Durham — The latest chapter in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry took a sharp turn very early in Wednesday’s meeting. North Carolina won the game, 88-72, but things just never felt right on a weird night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

On Duke’s first possession of the game, Zion Williamson drove to the middle of the lane and tried to spin back. When that happened, though, Williamson’s left shoe ripped. He hit the ground in pain, instantly; something was clearly wrong. Less than a minute into the game, Duke’s star headed to the locker room. Away minutes later, it was announced that due to a knee injury he would not return.

This opened the floodgates for UNC — Luke Maye, in particular. On a night when both teams struggled from deep, Maye ran wild: 30 points (14-of-24 FGA) and 15 rebounds. UNC finished 2-of-20 on 3-point attempts. Duke, in desperation mode for most of the game, went just 8-of-39 (20.5 3P%) from deep. Cameron Johnson also had 26 points; the Tar Heels were +25 with Johnson on the floor in 30 minutes.

The Blue Devils were led on offense by Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett, who combined for 60 of Duke’s 72 points. Barrett finished with 15 rebounds and four assists, too. He finished with a game-high 33 points; Reddish scored 27 and hit four 3-pointers.

North Carolina turned the ball over 16 times, mostly due to ball pressure from Tre Jones (four steals). Jones, however, struggled from the field — going just 1-of-11. Elsewhere for UNC, Garrison Brooks brought solid two-way production, once again: 14 points, eight rebounds and solid defense.

(Note from Cameron: For a second, it was almost possible to forget that former United State President Barack Obama was in attendance, too. Also, it was very cool to have him here.)

“We were knocked back after that injury,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, stating the obvious after Williamson exited. Krzyzewski addressed the injury, too: “It’s a mild knee sprain. The knee is stable. We don’t know how long he’ll be out.” More information should come out tomorrow.

Duke is back in action on Saturday at Syracuse, but the are far bigger concerns down the road for the Blue Devils, who must prepare for life without the best amateur basketball player in the world. As K noted: “We have to come up with a game plan based on Zion not playing.”

 

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