Sports

Duke offense starts slow, finishes strong in win over Princeton

Elbow to mouth doesn’t slow Duke’s Zion Williamson

Duke Blue Devils freshman forward Zion Williamson took an elbow to the mouth during a game against the Princeton Tigers on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williamson was sidelined briefly but still had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
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Duke Blue Devils freshman forward Zion Williamson took an elbow to the mouth during a game against the Princeton Tigers on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williamson was sidelined briefly but still had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

No. 2 Duke needed 14 minutes before it took its first lead over Princeton on Tuesday night.

While the Blue Devils started slowly due to poor shooting, they heated up before halftime and finished with a flourish.

Scoring on 14 of 15 possessions during a eight-minute stretch that bridged the halves, Duke turned a two-point deficit into a 20-point lead and rolled to a 101-50 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Playing its first game in 10 days, Duke (10-1) fell behind by as many as eight points as it made just 6 of its first 25 shots. But the Blue Devils finally found their rhythm, building a 39-26 halftime lead.

Duke finished shooting 52 percent overall, shooting 64 percent in the second half. The Blue Devils made 10 of 26 3-pointers (39 percent).

Freshman forward R.J. Barrett led the Blue Devils with 27 points. Despite leaving the game temporarily for medical attention in the first half after taking a elbow to the mouth, Duke freshman Zion Williamson returned and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Reserve guards Jack White and Alex O’Connell added 10 points each for the Blue Devils, who play No. 12 Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden in New York on Thursday night.

Princeton (5-5) shot 29.5 percent, turning the ball over 19 times. Duke finished with 14 blocked shots and 12 steals.

Duke’s cold start allowed Princeton to control the game over the first 10 minutes.

The Blue Devils missed their first eight 3-point shots and hit just 3 of their first 13 shots overall.

Princeton scored the game’s first eight points and maintained a 13-5 lead with 14:24 to play.

Duke didn’t climb out of its early hole until the 8:13 mark when Barrett scored to tie the game at 16-all.

Princeton regained the lead on Drew Friberg’s basket at the 7:56 mark but that was the last time the Tigers were in front.

After making just 6 of its first 25 shots to that point, Duke unleashed its powerful offense to score on 10 of its next 11 possessions.

Cam Reddish’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left in the half gave Duke its first lead at 19-18. That basket started at 11-0 run that also included two Jack White free throws and an Alex O’Connell 3-pointer.

Williamson took an entry pass from Jones to score at the rim while drawing a foul. His free throw put Duke ahead 27-18 with 4:21 left in the half.

Princeton’s Devin Cannaday hit a 3-pointer to stop Duke’s run but the Blue Devils reeled off six more points in a row. Barrett passed to Bolden for an interior basket before two Barrett baskets gave Duke a 33-21 lead.

Leading 39-26 at halftime, the Blue Devils bolted from the locker room with 9 made shots on 13 attempts to open a 32-point lead.

Barrett scored three quick baskets after halftime, including a slam dunk in transition after a Reddish steal that gave Duke a 48-28 lead with 18:08 to play.

Three-pointers by Williamson and Reddish on consecutive possessions pushed Duke’s lead to 54-30 with 16:27 left.

An O’Connell 3-pointer with 14:18 to play pushed Duke’s lead past the 30-point mark at 65-33.

Blue Devils start off slow but build another insurmountable lead in the second half with 101-50 victory.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.


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