The Blue Devils took the victory Saturday against in-state rival N.C. State. The Blue Zone has your Player of the Game and more to recap Duke's latest win.
One player: Mark Williams
Williams has had plenty of opportunities on the hardwood this year to prove that he’s the real deal. Whether it has been through his first-class rebounding skills or his slam dunks, the Virginia Beach, Va., native has continuously proved himself an asset for Duke. He did that once again in Saturday’s matchup against N.C. State, putting together his best performance of the season to help the Blue Devils finish with a 15-point win against the in-state foes.
Though he impressed the Cameron Crazies with his regular plays—including collecting a team-high 11 rebounds—he also went above and beyond on both sides of the ball. The 7-foot-1 center played efficiently on the court and accumulated his highest number of points and blocks all season with 19 and eight, respectively. If Williams’ performance in the Blue Devils' next game is anything like how he played Saturday, then the Duke faithful shouldn’t have too much to fear ahead of its battle with Florida State Tuesday.
One word: Defense
This showdown was defined by a solid defensive performance from the Blue Devils. The group played an all-around calm and collected game to take away the victory—garnering 38 rebounds and restricting themselves to only 10 personal fouls on the afternoon. Though both stats hover near the team's season averages, it’s impressive considering the Wolfpack had the same number of rebounds but had 17 fouls, giving Duke 24 attempts on the free-throw line. The Blue Devils also impressed through top-notch defensive performances from Williams and Trevor Keels—Keels finished with five steals on the night to help Duke reclaim possession and start fast-breaks. N.C. State is no easy opponent, but with a performance such as Saturday’s, it’s clear that Duke can take away any game if it can stay steady and well-positioned on the defensive end.
One stat: 58 points in the paint
One of the main reasons Duke has remained a premier team this season is its versatility on the court. The Blue Devils have players who can shoot and score from beyond or inside the arc—and that’s just the beginning. However, one of the most challenging spots that other teams have had with this Duke squad is its ability in the paint. With a robust starting five and deep bench, the team has several players who can follow the plays to the core and slither their way into the key for an open shot. This ability to get open—and also finish through contact down low—was evident in the Blue Devils' season-high 58 points in the paint against the Wolfpack. N.C. State only had 38 points in the paint with the monster presence of Williams looming at the rim.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.