COLUMBIA, S.C.—The top-seeded Blue Devils struggled out of the gate against No. 9 seed Central Florida's unconventional 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, but will carry a 44-36 edge into the locker room after a critical late run in the period. Here are five observations from the first half of play:
Tacko is tall
Fall has disrupted the Blue Devils on both sides of the ball. In the opening minutes, the Senegalese center had a pair of second-chance dunks and blocked Zion Williamson at the other end. Fall enters the locker room with seven points, three rebounds and one block as Duke struggled to box him out in the opening stanza. However, Fall did pick up his second foul with 11 minutes remaining in the half, keeping him in and out of the lineup for much of the period, and the Blue Devils got rolling from there.
Shooting over the defense
With Fall defending the interior, Duke has tried to combat his size by shooting over him. Despite entering the contest ranked 339th in the nation from the perimeter, the Blue Devils took each of their first four shots beyond the arc—making two—and Duke enters the locker room at 5-of-11 from downtown.
Blue Devil ties run deep
Coaching against former player and associate head coach Johnny Dawkins, it is Dawkins’ son who has given Mike Krzyzewki’s team the most trouble out of the gate. Aubrey Dawkins scored eight of Central Florida’s first 17 points—including a pair of triples—and leads all scorers with 18 points at the break.
Zion coming alive
With the Knights clogging the lane, Zion Williamson was unable to get in rhythm with Fall on the floor and did not score in the paint during the first 11 minutes. Up until that point, the Spartanburg, S.C., native’s lone contribution came on a triple in the opening minute. Williamson picked up the pace late in the half and enters the locker room with a team-high 15 points and four rebounds, leading Duke on a 10-0 run late in the half to open up a game-high eight-point edge.
Player of the half: Cam Reddish
The Blue Devils have needed their perimeter game to be on point with the combination of the Knights’ zone and size in the middle. Reddish has spearheaded Duke’s best half from the perimeter in a while with a team-high 10 points including a pair of triples. The Norristown, Pa., native’s second make from downtown gave the Blue Devils a 23-21 lead and erased an early six-point deficit. Like Fall, Reddish was forced to the bench late in the half after drawing his second foul.
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