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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Pittsburgh

<p>Zion Williamson scored 19 of Duke's first &nbsp;on his way to another dominant half.</p>

Zion Williamson scored 19 of Duke's first  on his way to another dominant half.

Duke got out to a strong start offensively against former associate head coach Jeff Capel’s Pittsburgh squad. Zion Williamson—a Capel recruit—has continued his recent dominant stretch as his Blue Devils enter the locker room with a 44-25 advantage. 

Pittsburgh getting to the rim 

Without Tre Jones in the lineup, Duke struggled to stop the ball in the opening minutes. Pittsburgh attacked the basket from the outset, and found success on the interior. Each of the Panthers’ first three makes came from within five feet, and that ability to break down the defense opened up opportunities on the perimeter early with Jared Wilson-Frame knocking down a triple to tie the score at 11 with 15 minutes left in the half.

Shutting down the crowd

Playing in front of a sellout crowd in a boisterous road environment has not fazed the Blue Devils early. After the Panthers took a 16-15 lead with 13:04 remaining, Duke responded with a 12-0 run to take control of the half and quiet the crowd a bit. The Oakland Zoo has a markedly different feel this time around after Pittsburgh’s dismal 0-18 ACC ledger last season, but the Panthers’ sixth man has been a non-factor thus far. 

Marques Bolden physical early 

After a mostly quiet performance against Virginia, which included a pair of clutch free throws, Marques Bolden’s offensive presence has been felt against Pittsburgh. Bolden grabbed a pair of offensive boards and added a slam off an assist from R.J. Barrett. The DeSoto, Texas, native enters the locker room with five points and six rebounds, a solid effort with former starter Javin DeLaurier continuing to struggle—DeLaurier missed a shot from the field for the first time in months to snap his streak of 19 straight made shots.  

Efficient from deep

Duke found success against Virginia focusing on winning the battle on the interior, and the Blue Devils have carried that mantra into Tuesday’s contest. Duke has been much more selective from the perimeter and has shown rare efficiency. The Blue Devils hit 4-of-9 shots from downtown in the first 20 minutes, led by two triples from Reddish. 

Player of the half: Zion Williamson

Before the game, Williamson was enamored by the opposing crowd, constantly waving his arms to encourage them to get louder and smiling as he ran into the locker room after warmups. Williamson has built off that energy with another dominant half, and he enters the locker room with 19 points on a perfect 9-of-9 performance in addition to five rebounds.