TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—It was a scene straight out of a movie, with Cam Reddish hitting a shot that every basketball player dreams of making.
R.J. Barrett missed a second free throw that would have tied the game up. Florida State was initially given the ball and the entire stadium was on its feet. However, after review, the call was overturned and it was Duke’s ball.
Three timeouts later, Tre Jones stood ready to inbound the ball past 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje. The set play was to use Barrett as a distraction to free up Reddish for a shot. So, with 2.8 seconds left and the Blue Devils down by one, Reddish received the ball beyond the arc on the right wing and drained a 3-pointer that immediately silenced the hostile Seminole crowd.
“Coach knew they were going to have a lot of attention on me,” Barrett said. “So he said, ‘Cam, you’re going to be wide open. They’re not even going to look at you.’ And he knocked it down.”
His teammates rushed the court, congratulating the freshman who has struggled to hit shots for the past month. And after Florida State’s futile attempt to make a basket with 0.8 seconds left on the clock, the game was over and Duke had come out on top, staying undefeated in the ACC.
“It wasn’t that he just hit that shot, he hit a couple other big ones,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He and R.J. kind of just kept us in it, with Tre making sure we were at least getting the ball to those two guys. So, huge for Cam.”
Since his 23-point performance against Stetson on Dec. 1, Reddish has only had two double-digit games, with 10 points against both Yale and Wake Forest. The highly-touted freshman averaged worse than 26 percent shooting from the field in the six games between Stetson and Saturday’s contest, with his least efficient performance being a 1-of-8 outing against Clemson.
However, after classmate Zion Williamson went out at the end of the first half with an eye injury, Reddish put his recent struggles behind him and stepped up for his team against the Seminoles.
“Cam Reddish, God damn it,” Marques Bolden said when asked about what allowed the Blue Devils to score without Williamson.
Reddish came out with a different energy from the start of the game, even when Williamson was still on the floor. The Norristown, Pa., native had struggled beyond the arc, draining a mere 2-of-11 attempts in conference play and converting just 31.1 percent from long range this season before Saturday’s game, when he hit five deep balls, his most since a seven-triple performance against Army in the second game of the season.
“I’m happy to be here,” Reddish said. “I’m here to work hard and be who I am and that’s what it felt like today. I knew it was coming. I wasn’t sure when, but I just had to trust in God and keep working hard.”
In addition to Reddish going 5-of-8 from downtown, the 6-foot-8 forward finished 9-of-15 from the field with 23 points—second only to Barrett’s 32. Reddish drove to the basket to answer Florida State’s baskets with layups of his own, and made shots when it mattered. Reddish hit a pull-up triple to put the Blue Devils on top two minutes into the second half and later made a jumper to snap a five-minute drought without a field goal for the team. He contributed not only the game-winning basket, but also a 3-pointer that put the Duke up 74-72 with a little more than four minutes left to play.
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Besides his excellent offense, the freshman came up with some big defensive plays as well, swatting a shot and grabbing the rebound to launch the Blue Devils into a successful transition chance in the first half.
Reddish ended the nail-biting victory with three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. The forward has had trouble staying out of foul trouble, with three or four personal fouls in the previous three contests. But that was not the case Saturday, as Reddish played a season-high 32 minutes and ended the game with only two fouls.