By: Nick Pooler
33 seconds into the huge rivalry game, freshman phenom Zion Williamson came out of his shoe, literally. As he went to pivot around the foul line, his left foot powered through his shoe and he twisted his right knee awkwardly. He left the game and headed back to the locker room where it was later announced he will not return. After this injury occurred, it was all Luke Maye and Cam Johnson. The two North Carolina seniors were too much for Duke as they led the Tar Heels to a 88-72 big win on the road in Cameron Indoor. Early on, North Carolina ran out to a 30-17 start with 6 minutes to go in the first half. Both teams were mostly ice cold from deep.
The Tar Heels led at the midway point 42-32. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish combined for 28 of Duke’s 32 in the first half. Out of North Carolina’s 42 points, 34 of them were in the paint in the first half. Maye, who had 18 points just in the first half, and his teammates went on a huge run coming out of the half which gave them a 22 point lead with just under 16 minutes to go in the game.
Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett did just about all they possibly could for Duke. They combined for 60 of the Blue Devils 72 points. But just the two of them was not enough. The other Blue Devils could not make a shot to save their life. Barrett finished with (33 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists), and Reddish finished with (27 points). Duke’s other stud freshman Tre Jones was absent the whole game in the scoring column finishing with (3 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals). Jack White, Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’Connell combined for 3-12 from the field, 0-8 from three. The big story is the amount of three pointers that Duke missed in this contest as they shot a very low 20.5% on 8 of 39 shooting.
As for North Carolina, it was all Maye in the 2nd half. Maye finished with 30 points, 15 boards on 14-24 shooting. Johnson (26 points, 7 boards) helped Maye form the perfect duo for the night. Garrison Brooks pitched in as well as he finished with (14 points, 8 rebounds).
Duke made a late surge to bring themselves back within 13 with just over two minutes left, but with North Carolina’s fast break method, the Tar Heels were too much for Duke. UNC finished with 64 points in the paint out of their 88 scored.
These two teams will meet again in the last game of the year in just over two weeks. As for now, North Carolina picks up a huge win that will increase their chances at a one seed come March in the bracket. They will host #16 Florida State Saturday afternoon. For Duke, they will hope and pray that Williamson will be okay and that his injury is not serious. He is the national player of the year to this point and it would be awful to see him go out this way. They will get a chance to bounce back in another big game on Saturday night as they head to the Dome in Syracuse. The Orange beat the Blue Devils last time out so they will look for revenge on them.