With Zion Williamson Sidelined, RJ Barrett & Cam Reddish Lead Duke to Dramatic Win at Florida State

    It's hard to tell who should have been more concerned during No. 1 Duke's 80-78 road win at No. 13 Florida State on Saturday afternoon: the Blue Devils or

    January 12, 2019

    It’s hard to tell who should have been more concerned during No. 1 Duke’s 80-78 road win at No. 13 Florida State on Saturday afternoon: the Blue Devils or the rest of the country?

    Duke lost freshman Zion Williamson, who is the clear frontrunner in our National Player of the Year race, for the game late in the first half when he was inadvertently poked in the eye by Florida State’s Trent Forrest, causing him to fall to the floor in pain.

    If Williamson is sidelined any longer than just the second half in Tallahassee, there isn’t anyone on the Blue Devils’ roster, let alone the country, who can replace the diverse production of the explosive freshman who shoots 74 percent inside the arc, grabs 15 percent of his team’s missed shots and has a combined block/steal rate of 10.7 percent.

    But Saturday proved that Duke, despite being the seventh-youngest team in the country, is still talented and composed enough to win – and to win on the road against a deep and experienced ranked opponent – without arguably the best player in the country.

    With Williamson only playing 17 minutes, fellow freshmen RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish each had their second-best point totals of the season. Barrett scored a game-high 32 points – his most since he dropped 33 points against Kentucky in his collegiate debut – while Reddish scored 23 points, including the game-winning three with 0.8 seconds left, after scoring 10 or fewer points in his last six games.

    Reddish, the No. 2 recruit in the 2019 recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, is arguably the most talented third option in the country, and he’ll be one of the most intriguing players for NBA scouts ahead of the 2019 NBA Draft, given his tertiary role to Barrett and Williamson.

    He finally got his singular moment in the spotlight on Saturday in Tallahassee, where the No. 1 team in the country staved off elimination and picked up its fourth win of the season against a team ranked in the top 15.

    With the game tied at 76, 15.8 seconds left in the game and just one second left on the shot clock, Reddish was fooled by a pump fake from Florida State’s PJ Savoy, fouling him and sending him to the free throw line for three shots. It was a costly freshman mistake that could have resulted in Duke’s second loss of the season and its first in ACC play.

    Savoy missed the first, but made the next two to give Florida State a 78-76 lead.

    On Duke’s next possession, Barrett drove to the rim, drew a foul with 5.1 seconds left and went to the free throw line, where he made his first try, but missed the second. Florida State’s Phil Cofer tried to throw the ball off of Duke’s Jack White as Cofer was falling out of bounds, but instead the ball deflected off his teammate Mfiondu Kabengele.

    The officials ruled it Florida State ball in real time, but the call was overturned after a video replay, giving Duke one final chance to atone for Reddish’s costly foul and Barrett’s only missed free throw of the game.

    The Blue Devils lined up three-wide across the lane with Reddish on the left elbow and Marques Bolden on the right block. Florida State defended the inbounds pass and at the start of the play, the other four Seminoles were positioned between the rim and the Blue Devils players they were defending.

    Bolden ran to screen Barrett’s man as Barrett ran to the right corner. White set a pin-down screen on Florida State’s Terance Mann to spring free Reddish. Bolden also ran to the rim as three Florida State players clogged the lane.

    Reddish couldn’t have been more open.

    A 35.8 percent three-point shooter, Reddish caught the inbounds pass from Tre Jones cleanly, lined up a three and drilled it with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.

    Florida State got a hand on its final full-court heave, but the ball was deflected over the backboard, leaving the Seminoles three points shy of an upset over the No. 1 Blue Devils.

    Similar to how former Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr. shouldered a larger load offensively last season when teammate Marvin Bagley III was sidelined for four games in February, Reddish capitalized on his increased workload with Williamson on the sideline.

    He made 5-of-8 threes, most notably the game-winner, and his stroke looked pure when he hit a pull-up three in transition to give Duke a 64-63 lead.

    His diverse skill set was on full display when he made a dazzling, up-and-under layup in the middle of the first half in which Reddish blew past one Florida State defender with an explosive first step before contorting his body to slide past the 6-10, rim-protecting Kabengele.

    While Reddish was efficient, Barrett was even more efficient, which hasn’t always been the case this season.

    It took Barrett 26 shots to score 33 against Kentucky, but he only needed 19 attempts to score 32 against the Seminoles in what was one of his most efficient offensive games of the season.

    He was 4-of-7 from three and 8-of-9 at the free throw line.

    Without Williamson, Duke struggled on the defensive glass as Florida State grabbed 17 (47.2 percent) of its misses and the Seminoles scored at least seven times in the second half on alley-oops or put-back dunks.

    Florida State is perhaps uniquely built with the length and athleticism to, at times, overwhelm even a supremely talented Duke team that’s led by future NBA lottery picks.

    Rebounding is where the Blue Devils would arguably most miss Williamson if he should miss any more time. His 15.1 offensive rebounding rate and 21.4 defensive rebounding rate rank 18th and 186th nationally, respectively.

    White and Bolden combined for six points on 2-of-8 shooting and eight rebounds in 49 minutes. Javin DeLaurier, who started, had zero points and zero rebounds in 16 minutes as the trio of big men showed the drop-off in production from Williamson to the rest of the team’s frontcourt players.

    Williamson had 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in his 17 minutes of action.

    Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters that Williamson suffered from double vision in the second half, but that it improved after the game, which is an encouraging sign for the Naismith College Player of the Year candidate.

    Saturday showed us that even the physically imposing, superhero-like Williamson is vulnerable to a freak injury, but the Blue Devils have the rare depth of elite-level talent that makes them dangerous even with their best player on the sideline.

    If Barrett can consistently score as efficiently as he did against Florida State and if Reddish can find his rhythm offensively — especially from three — while the two co-exist offensively with a healthy Williamson, then the Blue Devils will more frequently resemble the team that scored 118 points on Kentucky in their first game of the season.

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