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Strong start from Zion Williamson propels Duke men's basketball past Notre Dame

<p>Zion Williamson only missed two shots on his way to 26 points for yet another efficient outing.</p>

Zion Williamson only missed two shots on his way to 26 points for yet another efficient outing.

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—When T.J. Gibbs hit a layup with 4:50 remaining in the first half to cut the Duke lead to single digits, everyone at Purcell Pavilion rose to their feet. 

After trailing 26-7 less than 10 minutes into the contest, Gibbs' layup capped a 16-6 run and gave the Fighting Irish faithful hope that a second straight blowout to a top-three team was not imminent.

Just 16 seconds later, Zion Williamson sat them down with a triple at the top of the key.

The second-ranked Blue Devils finished the half on a 14-5 run en route to an 83-61 blowout of Notre Dame Monday night. Williamson spearheaded Duke's offensive outburst with 17 first-half points and 26 total points on just 12 attempts. The Spartanburg, S.C., native continued to show he can do it all on the court, adding nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks in the contest.

"You could feel it with the crowd. I feel like I thrive in situations like that," Williamson said of his clutch triple. "My man was playing off me, so I shot a strong, confident three, and I knew it was going in from the second I released it, and I think the crowd kind of got a little quiet. That sparked our run."

The Blue Devils rebounded from a dreadful 2-of-21 performance beyond the arc Saturday against Georgia Tech with dominance from the opening tip, shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 10-of-19 from downtown.

Duke (18-2, 7-1 in the ACC) came out firing as freshmen Tre Jones and Cam Reddish knocked down the team’s first two triples in the opening minutes to match the pair of makes in the entire game against the Yellow Jackets. The Blue Devil offense looked unstoppable as Duke made 10 of its first 13 attempts from the field and coupled it with stifling defense to open up a 19-point advantage midway through the half. 

"We hit them hard to begin with, not because they didn’t play well, but we just hit everything," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Two games in three days and travel, you never know what’s going to happen. Our guys really handled tonight well and I’m proud of them."

Jones and fellow freshman R.J. Barrett supplemented Williamson’s dominance with efficiency of their own. Jones finished with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and Barrett took advantage of Williamson’s presence in the interior to find space on the perimeter. The Mississauga, Ontario, native added 17 points with three triples and nine rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer, John Mooney, could not find the rim, missing each of his first seven attempts before getting on the board in the final seconds of the half. Despite scoring a team-high 14 points, Mooney ended the contest a dismal 4-for-15 from the field, representative of the Fighting Irish’s struggles as a whole—Notre Dame (11-10, 1-7) converted a mere 34.8 percent of its attempts Monday.

"We were just trying to double team on the post," Williamson said of the defense on Mooney. "But some of the shots, he would have a good look, and he just missed a good four or five of them, so it wasn’t his night, but it worked for us."

The Fighting Irish tried to fight back in the second half, but could not make a dent in the Blue Devils’ lofty advantage. Freshman Prentiss Hubb complemented Mooney with 13 points, but his effort went unnoticed as his team never got closer than 16 points in the second half.

"We were ready," Barrett said. "We went up big and [Krzyzewski] kept emphasizing to just keep playing hard, and that’s what we did for the rest of the game."

Following the victory, Duke will have a four-day layoff before playing its final nonconference game against St. John’s Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Michael Model

Digital Strategy Director for Vol. 115, Michael was previously Sports Editor for Vol. 114 and Assistant Blue Zone Editor for Vol. 113.  Michael is a senior majoring in Statistical Science and is interested in data analytics and using data to make insights.


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