Duke Basketball: Halftime report as Blue Devils trail Red Raiders at MSG

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

At the mecca of basketball on Thursday night, the Duke basketball team is playing Texas Tech, and this is a quick recap of the Blue Devils’ performance from the first half of the Ameritas Insurance Classic.

The Duke basketball players have become accustomed to blowout victories, winning each of their four games this month by at least 30 points and by an average of 44.5 points. But the December competition has instantly stiffened as the 10-1 Blue Devils face the 10-0 Texas Tech Red Raiders at Madison Square Garden.

This marks the first time the two programs have ever squared off. Entering the game, No. 2 Duke ranked fifth in the NCAA in average points scored (93.6). Meanwhile, No. 12 Texas Tech ranked first in average points allowed (51.2).

A team that loves to run against a team that loves to slow things down.

More from Ball Durham

Something had to give.

But at the half, it’s basically a draw.

The Blue Devils trail the Red Raiders, 29-28.

For the third consecutive game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski started his junior co-captain big man, Javin DeLaurier, alongside the four five-star freshmen: point guard Tre Jones, shooting guard R.J. Barrett, small forward Cam Reddish, and power forward Zion Williamson, who is making his first appearance at MSG.

And right away, Williamson began giving the crowd what it came to see. He had an active first minute: a monster block, a ferocious rebound, and an errant pass that led to a turnover.

But a moment later, the 6-7, 285-pounder broke the ice with a strong drive to the hoop for an easy layup.

His teammates instantly fed off his energy.

Less than four minutes into the game, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard called a much-needed timeout. The Blue Devils had an 8-0 lead after coming away with steals on four straight Red Raider possessions, culminating on a thunderous dunk from Williamson off an alley-oop pass from Jones in transition.

However, the Red Raiders bounced back after the timeout with a 12-2 run — forcing a couple of charges then capitalizing on the other end — and went into the under-12 timeout leading 12-10.

And then things got worse for Duke — trailing by seven by the next media timeout — after playing sloppy on offense and lackluster on defense. At that point, the Blue Devils were 0-for-6 from beyond the arc while their opponent was 3-for-5.

Out of the timeout, though, Duke responded with two straight steals, leading to two straight dunks — one by Williamson off a lob from Jones and the next by Barrett off a long heave by Jones — forcing another timeout by Beard.

A few plays later, Williamson made the arena shake again with a putback slam. He seemed to be determined to overpower the Red Raiders and impose his will while trying to inspire the rest of the Blue Devils.

Every possession between the under-8 and under-4 timeouts seemed to end with either a rebound by Zion, a score by Zion, a hustle play by Zion, or a foul called on Texas Tech because of Zion — until the refs called a charge on Zion going into the under-4 timeout.

Yet at the under-4 timeout, Duke had cut Texas Tech’s lead to two at 28-26.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, immediately following the under-4 timeout, another foul was called on Zion, his third, leading him to sit out the rest of the half.

A crafty layup by Jones then pulled Duke within a point. A few moments later, Barrett drew a charge but failed to convert on the front end of a one-and-one that could have given the Blue Devils the lead.

Two scoreless minutes followed, ending with a missed 3-pointer by Barrett, who was 3-for-14 from the field.

The leading scorer for the Blue Devils at the half is Williamson with 11. He was 4-for-5 from the field and 3-for-4 from the charity stripe. He also had six rebounds.

No other Blue Devil is in double figures. Jones has five steals.

Duke is shooting 39 percent from the field and is 0-for-10 from downtown.

The Blue Devils have committed 10 turnovers yet forced 15.

dark. Next. Top 10 wins of the Coach K era

Stay tuned to Ball Durham after the game and tomorrow for a game recap and features of notable performances from the Blue Devils.