Duke Dominates in 80-55 win over BC

Duke Dominates in 80-55 win over BC

By: Bryan Bruwer

On Tuesday night the Boston College Eagles (11-9, 2-6 ACC) traveled to Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina to take on the #2 team in the nation, the Duke Blue Devils (19-2, 7-1 ACC). The Eagles were facing an uphill battle from the jump, coming in as 23.5 point underdogs to the mighty Blue Devils. To boot, BC was without the services of guard Wynston Tabbs, who has averaged an impressive 13.9 PPG thus far in his freshman season.

However, the real story in this game, as is in every Duke game, is their outstanding trio of freshman and likely top-five picks in the 2019 NBA draft, Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish. Williamson has emerged as the alpha dog, using his mind-boggling combination of strength and athleticism to dominate whoever dares step in his path. Barrett, the #1 recruit in the country coming into the season, has mostly lived up to the hype, scoring effectively on all three levels and taking over games when necessary.  However, the knock on Barrett is his jumper’s inconsistency, and his lack of ability to create opportunities for his teammates. Reddish has been lost in the shuffle somewhat, averaging only 13 PPG this season. However, he was the star of Duke’s most dramatic moment so far season, hitting a game winning three pointer at Florida State back on January 12th. The quandary facing the Eagles heading into this contest was simply how to defend three potential future NBA stars simultaneously.

The Eagles were extremely competitive early on, jumping out to 8-4 lead before Duke got into a groove offensively. The Eagles understandably had a very difficult time containing Williamson, who was doing it all early on, stripping Ky Bowman of the ball and then throwing a beautiful bounce pass in transition for the easy deuce, sending the Cameron Crazies into a frenzy. Steffon Mitchell, who is normally very quiet offensively, followed that up by converting on an absurd circus layup and then a put-back slam to cut Duke’s lead to three about halfway through the first half.

A notable point in the first half was the early offensive struggles of Ky Bowman, who was matched up against Tre Jones. Jones, an excellent defender, absolutely smothered one of the most dynamic scorers in the nation in Shamorie Ponds of St. Johns on Saturday, and his dominance on the defensive end of the floor continued early Tuesday night, as Bowman was held scoreless until the 5:40 mark in the first half. Bowman got off the schneid by driving past Williamson (who was switched onto him) and finishing strong at the rim. The junior point guard flipped a switch after that, finishing the half with seven points to go alongside six rebounds and four assists.

Despite struggling to contain Williamson, the Eagles defense was exemplary in the first half, holding Duke to only 28 points. Perhaps even more significant is that the Eagles held Duke to only 1-15 from beyond the arc in the first half, as the Eagles have struggled with perimeter defense as of late in loses to Syracuse and Notre Dame. Part of BC’s success on the defensive end could be attributed to Barrett being in foul trouble for much of the night, as he picked up three in the first half and played only 26 minutes on the evening. Regardless, the Eagles took a 30-28 lead into the break in a game in which pundits gave them no chance, which is obviously a massive win.

However, the wheels began to fall off early in the second half. Duke opened the half on an 8-0 run, turning a two-point deficit into a six-point lead in less than two minutes. The Blue Devils then began to heat up from three, with Reddish and Jones connecting from downtown to extend the Duke lead to 10 with 15 minutes to play. As the second half continued, Duke began to bully the undersized Eagles on the offensive glass, and the open looks the Eagles were getting earlier in the game became fewer and farther between. Williamson absolutely dominated the Eagles on the glass, securing multiple second chance buckets for the Blue Devils that weren’t there in the first half. Bowman struggled to score in the second half, and he finished with a meager 11 points.

Despite showing signs of life at times, the Eagles continued to fall further and further behind. One notable moment occurred when Williamson stole a cross court pass and had nothing but open court in front of him, but promptly missed an uncontested dunk that would’ve sent the Cameron Crazies into a state of unmitigated pandemonium. To prevent a last-ditch comeback effort from BC Duke began to slow down the tempo to eat clock, and a long two from Alex O’Connell gave the Blue Devils a 20-point edge with five minutes remaining. Ultimately, the Eagles fell to Duke by a final score of 80-55.

Although the Eagles failed to upset the Blue Devils for the second year in a row, there was still a lot to like about their performance. They outhustled Duke and did a good job on the glass in the first half, and they made some strides in defending the three pointer, although shots began to fall in the second half. BC also did a solid job holding a dynamic scorer in Barrett in check, as he finished with 19 points on 5-12 shooting, with two of those buckets coming in garbage time. Jordan Chatman was a bright spot for the Eagles in the second half, and he finished with a team-leading 16 points.

Due to the Eagles apparently zoning in on stopping Barrett, Williamson and Reddish absolutely feasted on the offensive end. Reddish finished with 24 points, and Williamson chipped in 16 points and an astounding 17 rebounds. The Eagles just couldn’t contain Duke’s three-headed monster of blue chip prospects, and to be frank, who can blame them?