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And one: Mark Williams' two-way play leads Duke men's basketball past Cal State Fullerton at NCAA tournament

Mark Williams tallied a career-high five assists in Duke's first-round NCAA tournament win.
Mark Williams tallied a career-high five assists in Duke's first-round NCAA tournament win.

After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone breaks down Mark Williams' performance in the Blue Devils' win against Cal State Fullerton:

One player: Mark Williams

If Mark Williams can continue this play, Duke's opponents may have a major problem on their hands. The sophomore big man started the NCAA tournament off with a dominant performance on both ends of the court, totaling 15 points, seven rebounds, a career-high five assists and five of his team’s 10 blocks. 

With Duke looking to expand on its halftime lead early in the second half, Williams had a few key plays to put the Blue Devils in a more comfortable position. At the 16:47 mark, sophomore guard Jeremy Roach fed Williams in the post, who finished with a layup while being fouled before converting on the and-one opportunity. Wiliams also contributed on the defensive end by grabbing defensive rebounds, and his two-way play was on full display when he blocked Cal State Fullerton forward Vincent Lee's layup with just under 15 minutes to play. After Duke regained the ball, Williams pushed the ball up the floor to freshman forward Paolo Banchero for a finish at the rim to extend the lead to 18 points. The Blue Devils extended their lead from 10 to 20 in the second half thanks to Williams' impactful play.

One word: Defense

Duke clearly showed its readiness for Friday's challenge, holding the Titans to 37.5% shooting from the field and 29.4% shooting from three. It was clear that Cal State Fullerton was feeling the pressure, apparently facing some difficulty to find quality shots. Duke was stifling on defense compared to its opponent, creating a sizable scoring gap and logging 10 blocks to Cal State Fullerton's one.

In the first half, Duke struggled to take the ball away from the Titans. Cal State Fullerton, however, had little trouble registering steals, leading 5-2 in the category at halftime. Yet, Duke stepped up its game in the second half, logging four steals to Cal State Fullerton's three. Even though Fullerton led the Blue Devils in steals 8-6, Duke's extra effort in the second half kept the Titans from making a comeback.

One stat: 40.9% 3-point shooting

While Duke's size is always a factor, the Blue Devils are hard to beat when they are firing on all cylinders from 3-point range. Duke shot 40.9% from beyond the arc Friday, hitting 9-of-22 3-pointers. It wasn’t just freshman forward AJ Griffin, who hit 2-of-7 triples. Junior captain Wendell Moore Jr. hit 3-of-4 treys to showcase his 3-point shooting in his first NCAA tournament game and Banchero hit two 3-pointers as part of his team-high 17 points. Roach and senior forward Joey Baker both hit one 3-pointer to round out the team’s great shooting from long distance.

The Blue Devils fared well against the Titans in 3-point shooting, especially in the second half. Cal State Fullerton started off as the more efficient 3-point shooting team in the first half, shooting 42.9% from three to Duke's 38.5%. While Duke certainly did not shoot poorly in the first 20 minutes, it edged out the Titans in the second half, shooting 44.4% from three to Cal State Fullerton's 20% after the break. If Duke can continue to combine Williams' paint play with exquisite shooting from its perimeter players, it can have an exciting rest of the NCAA tournament.


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