After needing a desperation miracle to pull off a 23-point comeback against Louisville Tuesday, Duke got off to a hot start from the field Saturday against in-state rival N.C. State and leads 48-40 entering the locker room. Here are five observations from the first half of play:
Player of the half: Zion Williamson
Again, Williamson dominated in front of the Cameron Crazies, scoring 19 points with five rebounds and not allowing N.C. State’s big men to dictate things down low. Adding a couple dunks and putbacks to his highlight film along with playing excellent man-to-man defense on the other end of the floor, Williamson continued to prove why some have touted him as “unguardable” in the ACC. WIlliamson clearly shines under the bright lights, and a visit from Floyd Mayweather certainly didn’t hurt the Spartanburg, S.C. native’s knack for putting on a show.
Attacking the paint early and often
Despite the fact that N.C. State’s starting lineup matched up pretty well in size with the Blue Devils, Duke did not hesitate to drive the lane as much as it could throughout the first period, scoring its first 10 points in the paint or from the free-throw line. The Wolfpack’s defense looked porous down low, allowing for 26 Duke points in the paint during the first half.
Taking advantage of free points
Duke’s aggressive offensive attack forced N.C. State to foul in order to stop easy dunks and layups. But what has seemed to be Duke’s achilles heel throughout this season, the charity stripe, did not hurt the Blue Devils in the first half, as Duke hit 14-of-16 from the free-throw line. If Duke can continue to convert its free throws at a high rate, the team can utilize its unique size and athleticism to control the paint, as it did against the Wolfpack in the first half.
N.C. State’s one-dimensional offense
N.C. State also chose to attack the paint to score its baskets as well, but did not do it nearly as well as Duke. The Wolfpack scored X of its X first half points in the paint, and had to continue to force it down low, as the team only made one 3-pointer for the first 20 minutes of the game. The Wolfpack were somewhat successful though, as they stayed competitive for the first period.
Duke Basketball Alumni Day
In the crowd for the lesser of two in-state rival games for Duke this month, some of the members of the 2015 National Championship team showed up to support their former team. Tyus Jones, Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook and Grayson Allen all sat together behind Duke’s bench, which added excitement to an already hyped game which expected the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Kevin Durant to attend. Four other Duke basketball alumni were in attendance, putting Duke’s Brotherhood on full display.
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