Duke defeated the Army this Sunday night 94-72, with Zion Williamson’s monstrous performance.
After crushing Kentucky at the Champions Classic, the Duke Blue Devils instantly became the hottest basketball story in the United States. The experts started talking about their superb talent and one in a lifetime generation, etc, etc. The atmosphere around them was as they already won the national championship. That might have affected these young players to underestimate their next rival, who came to Durham to give its best shot.
The game against Army Black Knights was a wake-up call. Feisty visitors didn’t want to lay their weapons without a decent fight, and we could say, that they made one hell of resistance, despite a 22-point loss. They pointed towards numerous weak spots this team has at the moment.
“A perfect game for us following Kentucky” Mike Krzyzewski said after the event. “That whole thing, the hangover of success and travel and then getting ready. The only way you do it is to do it. And our guys don’t feel good about themselves right now. And that’s good.”
Everything might have been a lot different if it weren’t for Zion Williamson, who practically single-handedly held his team in the first half of this event. His domination secured a 50-45 lead after first 20 minutes. Eventually, the Blue Devils made an 11-0 run with some ten minutes before the end of the game, thus solving this clash. The Army was perfect until then, causing too much trouble for the No.4 seed. Their shooting percentage went up to 49%, and the home team was without a solution for that.
“It’s one thing for somebody to tell you that everybody’s going to bring their best against you, that all their shots are going to feel like they’re going in,” Williamson said. “But I think until you truly experience it, I think you just have to go through it to fully understand.”
The 6-foot-7 ended this game with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 blocked shots. His contribution in the first half was huge, and Duke was dominant in the paint, but the backcourt failed to restrain the Army’s fantastic three-point shooting. At the end of that period, they had 46.7% behind the arc.
Everything was the same in the first part of the second half, until Coach K asked for a timeout with some 11 minutes to go. After that, we saw just one team on the court. Camm Reddish started pounding, with R.J. Barrett helping him, and in no time, the Blue Devils were up 14 points. However, these two didn’t have some sparkling shooting night, as they made 18 field goals from 40 shots combined. Reddish had 25 points, with 7 of 13 for three, while Barrett added 23. The interesting thing is that Williamson sat on the bench at the beginning of this decisive run.
— Army WP M.Basketball (@ArmyWP_MBB) November 11, 2018
Despite being a physically inferior when compared to Duke, Army imposed a high tempo, with lots of running and pressure inside the arc. Coach Jimmy Allen was talking about that after the game.
“Our guys stuck to the game plan,” Allen said. “Trying to keep them out of the paint, trying to keep them from getting some easy baskets inside and force them to take some shots from the perimeter, and trying to get them to have to make a few passes in a possession.”
And everything did go well, but simply that kind of intensity was just too much for the Black Knights who reminded Duke and his freshmen that this season is not going to be just a walk through the park. Victory against Kentucky will not guarantee them a spot at the Final Four, yet a title and they must work even harder. Tom Funk had a double-double for the guests with 12 points and 10 assists, while Matt Wilson scored 15 points, a team-high for the Army.
Up next the Blue Devils one again play at home. Their next opponent is Eastern Michigan, this Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the Army awaits Sacred Heart this Friday.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.