Duke basketball: Monster presence asserts himself once again

Duke basketball center Mark Williams (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball center Mark Williams (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

A big Duke basketball presence reintroduced himself in emphatic fashion on Saturday. 

It was a reemergence from Duke basketball center Mark Williams on national television against North Carolina State (9-9, 2-5 ACC) on Saturday afternoon.

Williams, who has been quiet since ACC play began, was a force inside against the Wolfpack as the No. 8 Blue Devils (14-2, 4-1 ACC) pulled away at home in the second half for a 88-73 victory.

The sophomore center fell two blocks shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and eight blocks in 27 minutes of action while also registering two assists, one steal, and only committing one turnover with no fouls in the win.

Since posting 17 points in a victory over then-No. 1 Gonzaga, Williams had only averaged 7.5 points per game over his last eight outings until Saturday’s effort.

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However, with Mike Krzyzewski back on the sidelines after his one-game absence due to a non-COVID illness, it was the freshman sensation Paolo Banchero who led the Blue Devils with 21 points, eight rebounds, and four assists on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor.

Four of the five starters for Duke reached double figures as AJ Griffin, who was coming off a career-high 22 points, could not replicate his performance against Wake Forest and only finished with three points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Theo John put together the best game of his Duke career as he reached ten points for the first time since joining the Blue Devils.

Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels appeared to get back on the right track as the two combined for 27 points.

Duke basketball looking for more consistency from ferocious center

When Mark Williams is able to play at the level he did on Saturday, Duke is nearly unbeatable.

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Williams elevates the defense as it is impossible to score at the rim with him patrolling the paint. And teams must focus on him on the offensive end with his 7-foot-1 frame being able to easily catch passes over the defense at the baseline.

Duke and Mark Williams return to the floor on Tuesday night with a trip to Tallahassee to face the Florida State Seminoles (10-5, 4-2 ACC) at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN.

Studs and duds show new dynamic duo forming. dark. Next