DALLAS, Texas – Following their heart-breaking loss to #1 Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational Championship game, Duke resurrected with a 90-69 victory over Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
As we’ve witnessed thus far this season, Duke’s victory was spear-headed by the freshman phenom showcase. Nothing stood between Zion Williamson and the rim as he displayed another must-see dunk performance – racking up four dunks, one of which came off a fast-break steal that resulted in a nasty windmill jam.
Indiana couldn’t get anything going offensively. Coming into this game, there was no one of this Indiana roster that was going to defensively neutralize Williamson, Barrett and Reddish. Therefore, Indiana was forced into keeping up with Duke point for point and it took a major toll on them. In the first half, the Hoosiers only made 11 of 33 attempts and gave up 13 turnovers, falling into a deep 53-29 hole.
The second half didn’t get much better for the Hoosiers as they attempted to salvage some fight in them by causing four turnovers in the first two minutes of the second half.
A three-pointer made by RJ Barrett gave the Blue Devils their largest lead of the contest, 60-34. Williamson scored 25 points, RJ Barrett added 22 and Tre Jones contributed with 15 points to help the Blue Devils (6-1) remind the entire world that they are still the best team in college basketball.
Last night, Duke looked nothing like the team we saw lose to Gonzaga last week at the Maui Invitational. Not once did the Blue Devils trail in this entire game. They shot 52 percent from the field and caused 20 turnovers that resulted in a total of 24 points for the night. And yet, coach K still managed to call timeout and throw his jacket in disgust in the second half. Why? Because he has extremely high expectations for his freshmen. As great of a game that they played, in his mind when he called that time out with 13:40 to play in the second half they should’ve been up by 40 – and he’s right. They were turning the ball over, not looking crisp on offense and they were committing unnecessary fouls on defense. To coach K’s level of expectations, that’s unacceptable.
After seven games into the season, it’s unclear as to who’s really the Alpha Dog on this team. We know who’s the box office attraction. We know who’s the one-man dunking machine. But in terms of who’s the Alpha Dog on this team – do we really have a true understanding? In this early season train ride for the Blue Devils, it’s amazingly clear who wants to the Alpha Dog, and that RJ Barrett. The signs are there. It’s no secret that Zion Williamson gets majority of the attention over the other three freshmen. Why? Because he’s the only guy that reminds us of other previous and current great NBA Hall of Fame talent. And because of that, one can argue that RJ Barrett is approaching ever single game with a chip on his shoulder. Ultimately trying to prove that he’s the best player on this team and he should be taken #1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, and not Zion.
So far this season, RJ is attempting at least eight more shots than Zion over the course of seven games and one can assume that number will increase as the season unfolds. The only question is – will it ultimately hurt the Blue Devils in the end? We’ve already witnessed it caused them a championship game a week ago. Let me remind everyone that even though Duke was looking their worse against Gonzaga in the Maui Championship, they still had an opportunity to come out victorious in that game. After battling back from a double-digit deficit for majority of the game, Duke still managed to cut the lead down to just two with less than a minute to play in the second half. Duke had a total of four possessions down the stretch to either tie the game or take the lead – and RJ neglected his teammates and attempted all four shots and missed all four. Why wasn’t one of those plays drawn up for Zion? Barrett took it upon himself to be the hero and it caused them. My only respond is – what if that was Final Four Championship game? To stay up to date on all things Duke and more, be sure to subscribe to You Can Argue That Sports and receive notifications of new posts and podcasts by email.