Duke Basketball: Zion Williamson fouls out, Blue Devils unite to top TTU

Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Duke basketball (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Duke basketball (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball players had their hands full on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against an undefeated Texas Tech squad, but they stepped up as a unit in the final four minutes to seal the victory.

At the under-four timeout of the No. 2 Duke basketball team’s 69-58 win over the No. 12 Texas Tech Red Raiders on Thursday, the outcome was still in doubt.

After all, the Blue Devils’ sensational freshman, Zion Williamson, who had been the primary source of energy for Duke all night, fouled out of the game — on one of many questionable charge calls — while his team led Texas Tech by only five.

Question: Who would step up in his place in order to hand the Red Raiders their first loss of the season?

Answer: Everyone.

After the Red Raiders’ Jarrett Culver, who had a game-high 25 points, pulled the lead to within three by hitting his two free throws resulting from the fifth foul on Williamson, Blue Devil freshman forward Cam Reddish stepped up by draining his first 3-pointer of the game.

That was Reddish’s first and only made shot; he finished 1-for-7 from the field and 1-for-5 from downtown.

And the player who dished Reddish the ball for the shot, fellow freshman R.J. Barrett, who had shooting woes of his own — 16 points off a 7-for-22 clip from the field and a 0-for-7 mark from beyond the arc — continued the momentum on Duke’s next trip by draining a floater in the lane.

Next, the five Blue Devils in the game stepped up the defensive intensity to further ensure they wouldn’t have a long flight home.

Reddish came up with a steal. He had three steals on the night, freshman point guard Tre Jones had a game-high six, and the team combined for 15 (the sixth straight game Duke has had more than 10, tying for the second-longest streak in program history with the 1986-87 and 2001-02 teams, one shy of a seven-game streak by the 1997-98 squad).

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After Reddish’s steal came a block by junior co-captain Javin DeLaurier, a huge rebound and two made free throws by Reddish, a steal by co-captain Jack White, a block by White, a defensive rebound by White, and two made free throws by White.

Game over.

Before sealing the win, the Blue Devils trailed most of the game, including at the half.

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Williamson led Duke with 17 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and an impressive 9-for-10 mark from the charity stripe. He also had a whopping 13 rebounds. Before fouling out, he appeared determined to take over the game. Even if he had to do it on his own.

He didn’t.

Jones contributed 13 points, five assists, six steals — yes, six — and only one turnover.

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Speaking of turnovers, Reddish and Barrett, who have both seen better nights, had six apiece.

White, who hit a couple of clutch 3-pointers and, as usual, played like a junkyard bulldog from the moment he entered the game, finished with eight points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers. The 6-foot-7 Aussie continued to be the most consistent contributor for the team.

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DeLaurier had five points, five rebounds, and two blocks. Fellow junior big man Marques Bolden did not score, did not have a rebound, and only played six minutes (he did have two blocks). Sophomore guard Alex O’Connell had two points, one steal, and one assist in 11 minutes of action.

As a team, the Blue Devils shot 23-for-60 from the field, including a dismal 3-for-20 from three. On a positive note, they were 20-for-25 from the foul line.

Luckily, the Red Raiders didn’t shoot much better — 39 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

Duke had a less-than-stellar 19 turnovers but was able to help cause 24 turnovers by Texas Tech.

A well-earned win. Ugly, yet somehow beautiful — as a result of the relentless team effort.

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A well-earned two-week break before Duke, now 11-1, hosts its first ACC foe, Clemson, on Jan. 5.