March 15 (UPI) — Duke’s Zion Williamson went 13-of-13 from the field, helping Duke dominate Syracuse and advance in the 2019 ACC Tournament.
The Blue Devils’ 84-72 win Thursday sets up a semifinals matchup against rival North Carolina. That game tips off at 9 p.m. Friday for a chance to go to the ACC Championship.
“I wouldn’t say perfect night,” Williamson told reporters. “Like couldn’t really throw a tennis ball into the ocean with my free throws, so I don’t consider that perfect. But I know I was ready to come back a few days ago. I got some reps in with the team.
“But I would like to say this, there was never any pressure for me to rush back when I wasn’t ready. So I thank coach, the assistant coaches and my teammates for that, they always told me come back when I’m ready and I felt ready a few days ago and I mean it was good to get back.”
Duke and Syracuse went back and forth early on before the Blue Devils ignited on a 17-2 run to take a 23-14 lead. The Orange climbed back to tie the score at 46-46 with 13:02 remaining, but could not retake the lead.
Williamson was appearing in his first game since injuring his knee Feb. 20 against North Carolina. He made a layup for his first shot of Thursday’s game before going up for one of his signature dunks about 2 minutes into the victory.
The future 2019 NBA Draft lottery pick scored a game-high 29 points and had 14 rebounds, five steals and two assists in 36 minutes of action. Fellow Duke star R.J. Barrett scored 23 points for the Blue Devils.
“Well he was himself, so let him be himself not like anyone else, and just like all these kids. And then take advantage of the moment you get a chance to see them as they’re developing into the players that they’re supposed, that they’re going to be,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“For me, I love the fact of being part of that process for a short period of time and that’s why I never try to make them like somebody else. They didn’t come to Duke to be a four or a three or like Jason Tatum or Brandon Ingram, they came to see who they were going to become and let’s see what happens.”