Zion Williamson Brilliant as Duke Powers Past Army

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2018

Duke's Zion Williamson (1) drives to the basket as Army's Ben Kinker (30) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Army handed Duke a tougher test than it got in its season opener against Kentucky, but the Blue Devils still looked like the class of the nation Sunday.

Zion Williamson had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Cam Reddish added 25 to lead Duke to a 94-72 victory over Army at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Veterans Day.

Williamson made 11 of his 14 attempts and continued his early-season onslaught on college basketball, dominating inside while facilitating the offense with his passing. The trio of Williamson, Reddish and RJ Barrett combined for 75 of Duke's 94 points.

Matt Wilson scored a team-high 15 for Army, which put up 42 first-half points but faltered after the break. 


Zion Williamson Is Better Than Advertised

It's taken all of about 80 minutes to quiet any Williamson skeptic. The freshman has played better than anyone expected, becoming college basketball's biggest must-watch attraction—perhaps the most astounding prospect we've seen minute-by-minute since Kentucky's Anthony Davis in 2011-12.

The jumper and free-throw shooting still need work, but Williamson is a chiseled man among boys who is bullying anyone in his path and showing a versatile game that has scouts drooling. He's incredible off the dribble for someone with his size (6'7", 285 lbs), and has solid vision to find open cutters and shooters around him on the pick-and-roll.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Williamson's game is his effort. He finished with six blocks Sunday and was all over the floor, chasing help defense near the rim and constantly forcing himself into the action.

That aggressiveness will come back to haunt him at times against better teams. He needs to do a better job of playing within himself and avoid chasing the big play, as that aggressive help defense can turn into easy layups and threes against smarter competition. There were times in the first half that Army got good inside looks as a result of Duke's being too happy to play individual defense.

Still. That's just being a wet blanket. Zion is awesome. He's ridiculously fun to watch. He's arguably establishing himself as the No. 1 player in the 2019 NBA draft despite palpable skepticism regarding his body type and shooting.

Let's just sit back and enjoy the ride. 


Duke Needs to Improve Defense to Be Title Contender

Continuing the wet-blanket trend: Duke can't give up 42 points in a half to the likes of Army. The Knights were within six points with less than 12 minutes remaining until Duke went on an 11-point run that put the game out of reach.

But the point remains that Duke played 28 minutes of below-average defense before it ramped things up. The Blue Devils can get away with that against Army. The mental miscues and at times lax effort (non-Zion edition) don't show up against a lesser opponent the way they would against North Carolina or Virginia.

Box-score watchers will point to Army's 35.9 percent shooting and say this was a strong defensive performance from the Blue Devils. The reality is Army missed a ton of good looks, particularly from three-point range.

Much of this is part of a growing process. Duke is starting four freshmen. Young players, by rule, are bad at defense. It's Mike Krzyzewski's job to build a cogent team system around a group of players who have more than enough athleticism to get the job done. 


What's Next?

Army will host Sacred Heart on Friday. Duke will host Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.