Duke easily handled the Bison in its NCAA tournament opening, defeating North Dakota State 85-62. The Blue Zone breaks down three key takeaways, three key stats and looks forward for the Duke squad:

Three key takeaways:

1. No. 1 + No. 5 = Championship No. 6? 

Duke was once again carried to victory on the backs of freshman forwards Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. The tandem sparkled in its NCAA tournament debut, accounting for 51 of the Blue Devils’ 85 points while shooting 62 percent from the floor. Barrett notched a double-double with 14 boards. They probably could have done even more damage if head coach Mike Krzyzewski hadn’t taken Williamson and Barrett out of the game with nine and four minutes left, respectively. 

Meanwhile, Cam Reddish struggled mightily, especially in the first half. The sharpshooter finished the first half with only four points, all of which came via the charity stripe. He missed on all five of his field goal attempts in the first half. Reddish did bounce back in the second half, scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting in a positive garbage time performance. 

Sophomore guard Jordan Goldwire notably put in one of his two long-range attempts—his first make from beyond the arc since Feb. 2 and only his second 3-pointer of the season. His conversion rate now stands at nine percent on the season. 

2. Garbage collector 

Joey Baker had the best game of his college career Friday night, though that isn’t saying much. The freshman guard, relieved of his redshirt, unleashed a 3-pointer from the left wing with just over a minute left in the game. It rattled around the rim, ricocheted off the backboard and finally found the bottom of the net, extending Duke’s lead to 24. The garbage-time bucket marked Baker’s first ever basket at the college level. 

His seven minutes of floor time increased his total playing time this season to a whopping 18 minutes. Baker also recorded his first block on a chasedown of Bison guard Jordan Horn’s layup. 

3. Sluggish start 

As with the other No. 1 seed vs. No. 16 seed matchups Friday, Duke’s gave many fans quite a scare in the beginning. North Dakota State led the game for 8:28 and had the lead with just over two minutes left in the first half. At one point, the Bison held a seven-point advantage over the Blue Devils. 

North Dakota State point guard Vinnie Shahid scored 15 of his 20 total points in the first half. His 7-of-14 night led to one of the highest-scoring performances against defensive player of the year candidate Tre Jones by a point guard this season. Shahid coughed up five turnovers and failed to dish out any assists. Marques Bolden shored up the Blue Devils’ defensive interior in his return from a left MCL sprain he suffered 13 days earlier, limiting the Bison to only 18 points in the paint. Duke allowed just three offensive rebounds, a season low. 

Three key stats: 

1. 3 points 

Joey Baker scored his first points of the season on a triple from the left wing with just over a minute left in the game. It came on only his fourth shot attempt and seventeenth minute of play this season. 

2. 22/60 

Those are the first/second-half splits on Duke’s 3-point percentage. The Blue Devils converted on only two of their nine attempts in the first half but sunk six of 10 launches from downtown after the intermission. North Dakota State experienced a similar boost—the Bison improved from 2-of-15 from three in the first half to 6-of-14 in the next two periods. 

3. 6 turnovers 

That’s the second-lowest number of turnovers committed by Duke this season. The only game in which the Blue Devils committed fewer was the first game of the season against Kentucky, all the way back in early November. 

Looking forward: 

The No. 1-seeded Blue Devils stay in Columbia, S.C. to take on head coach Johnny Dawkins’ ninth-seeded Central Florida squad Sunday at 5:15 p.m. Seven-foot-six center Tacko Fall’s 13-point, 18-rebound performance against No. 8 seed Virginia Commonwealth Friday propelled the Knights to 73-58 victory. As a player, Dawkins led Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to his first-ever NCAA championship game in 1986, where the Blue Devils lost to Louisville.