Anybody else here still unable to breathe?
With the injury to Zion Williamson, it never felt quite right in the regular season. While impressive, UNC’s sweep of Duke seemed incomplete without the presence of the great phenom. The question lingered: would it have really happened if Zion had played?
So, after Zion established against Syracuse that he was back at full strength, the hype for this semifinal game of the ACC Tournament reached extremely high levels. And Duke– especially Zion– delivered. Duke took down the Tar Heels in absolutely thrilling fashion, 74-73. Take a wild guess at who had the winning bucket.
It checked about every box: comeback? Duke was down 13 in the first half and came back to tie it before the break. High-scoring? The score may not look the part, but much of the second half was bucket to bucket and it was extremely high-paced. Elite scorers? Well… oh, right. Zion had 31 points. Finally, the game went down to the very last shot.
Duke had some issues. Cam Reddish, Alex O’Connell, and Jack White all were not playing their best. We had moments in which we just looked lost and young on defense. But it all changed the moment two guys stepped on the court. No, it’s not RJ Barrett or Zion Williamson. It’s not even Coach K. Those two guys are Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic.
Let’s start with Antonio. It isn’t going to show in the stat sheet, but the energy that he brought was magnificent. He had two points, two assists, and a block. However, the number of shots he affected isn’t present and the energy he brought us won’t show up unless you watch the tape, but it was there.
Now to J-Gold. Nobody has forgotten his amazing play against Louisville; he’s not much of a scorer but brings defensive pressure and is an exceptionally aware player. He did the same thing in Charlotte; additionally, he gave us the lead with under two minutes to play on an easy lay-in after the rebound under our basket slipped through the fingers of Luke Maye. That’s a clutch play in a game where every bucket could have changed the game completely.
Roy Williams said that he became “Superman”. Superman wears Duke blue, unfortunately for Coach Williams alongside the rest of Duke’s opponents. Zion as aforementioned had 31 to go with 11 rebounds, a block, and a steal. He was 13-19 overall and 2-3 from beyond the arc. What an amazing player and what an incredible game from him.
RJ Barrett had 15 points, but was just 33% from the field and 2 of 9 from distance. Meanwhile Tre Jones had 4 assists to go with his 11 points.
While many expected a Duke-UVA Round 3, the Cavaliers were upset by the Florida State Seminoles in the semifinal round and will now face the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament Championship.