Duke-St. John's: Freshman Williams Provides Spark for Blue Devils

Jason RitchieContributor IFebruary 20, 2009

Over the past couple of weeks, it has been easy to see that Duke fans—like most fans of elite teams in any sport—are spoiled. They simply are not used to anything but winning.

And when the team isn't winning, its fans get restless.

A quick jaunt to Web sites such as duke.rivals.com will show you fans calling for all types of changes, whether it be altering the starting line-up, adjusting playing time, or mixing up the playing style. Some fans called out coach Mike Krzyzewski as being too stubborn to make the changes he needed to make for the team.

A particular point many people have been discussing is the playing time of Duke's freshmen, in particular Elliot Williams.

Williams was rated 16th overall by rivals.com in the 2008 high school class, and third among shooting guards. Many fans felt that someone that highly rated, and a McDonald's All-American to boot, is too good to be relegated to the bench. Prior to last night's game, Williams was averaging 9.4 minutes per game, but since ACC play started he has only averaged 5.1 minutes.

Thursday night against St. John's, Coach K seemingly answered the critics, giving Williams the starting nod, only his second of the season. (The first came against UNC-Asheville, a game in which Krzyzewski started five reserves to motivate the normal starters after the team's loss to Michigan.)

Williams played 31 minutes against St John's; only Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson played more. Williams also added a career-high 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting (1-for-2 from three-point range). He was one of four Duke players in double figures.

Gerald Henderson led the team in scoring with 19 points. Scheyer added 18, and Kyle Singler chipped in with 15 before fouling out.

Duke led this game 69-57 with 3:08 remaining before St John's made a run. The Red Storm capitalized on missed free throws and bad fouls, cutting Duke's lead to a mere five points in the closing seconds. Scheyer iced the game at the line, extending Duke's lead to seven with 12 seconds remaining, for a final score of 76-69.

The Red Storm's D. J. Kennedy led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds. Sean Evans added 15, and Malik Booth had 10 for the Red Storm, who have now lost to Duke six straight times, and have lost five in a row overall.

Up next for Duke is a rematch with No. 8 Wake Forest on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.