Zion Williamson, Duke Blow out SDSU as R.J. Barrett Drops 20 Points in Maui

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2018

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 19: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils takes a jump shot during the first half of the game against the San Diego State Aztecs at Lahaina Civic Center on November 19, 2018 in Lahaina, Hawaii.  (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Nearly 5,000 miles from home, Duke remained effective with a 90-64 win over San Diego State in the first round of the Maui Invitational.

Playing at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii, the Blue Devils built a 17-point halftime lead before pulling away for the easy victory. The starters were rested for much of the second half but RJ Barrett led the way offensively with 20 points while Zion Williamson had 13 points and five steals in Monday's win.

Devin Watson had 15 points and three assists for San Diego State in the loss.


San Diego St. Exposes Possible Weakness in Zion Williamson's Game

After simply dominating opponents over the first few weeks of the season, Williamson finally showed some weakness for the first time Monday.

The forward struggled in the first half, shooting 1-of-5 from the field while also spending a lot of time on the bench due to foul trouble.

One of the biggest problems was his inability to combat San Diego State's length:

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

Thought SDSU did a nice job of packing the paint and helping on Zion’s drives. Nathan Mensah’s 7-4 wingspan has been a factor so far. Wondering if we’ll see any Zion at the 5 in the 2nd half.

Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN

Zion Williamson off to a 1-for-5 start and Jalen McDaniels' length is a factor in that. He's challenging everything at the rim. Ridiculous wingspan. This is the most aggressive team Duke has faced all year. Kentucky didn't fight back. SDSU will.

Jalen McDaniels especially showed his ability as a defender and has the upside on both ends to be an NBA player.

Of course, if Williamson goes to the NBA next season then all of his opponents will have the type of length and athleticism that could cause him problems on the offensive end.

The freshman couldn't attack the basket like he usually does and he wasn't able to shoot over the top with consistency. San Diego State would also often double team him in the post, which led to two turnovers and only one assist.

Williamson still finished with 13 points and six rebounds on 5-of-11 shooting, so there is little concern about his ability to produce at the college level. However, NBA teams are going to wonder how well this production can translate to the next level. For the first time this year, there is some doubt in his ability as a prospect.

The forward is one of the most athletic players to ever come out of high school, as he showed with this second-half dunk:

ESPN @espn

DON'T GIVE ZION A RUNWAY 😱 https://t.co/37oscZLxLA

He has also developed an impressive all-around game, that includes creating shots for himself and others. Still, he could be limited without an outside shot at 6'7".

Tuesday's game will help show whether or not this is a real concern as he takes on Auburn's tough defensive duo of Chuma Okeke and Anfernee McLemore.


Consistent 3-Point Shooting Lifts Duke's Offense to Near Unstoppable Levels

San Diego State's defensive strategy was similar to one Duke might see a lot of this season: pack the lane and make the Blue Devils shoot over you.

Unlike many of the Duke teams we have seen over the past few decades under Mike Krzyzewski, this is not an elite shooting group. The players are at their best when they are driving into the lane and finishing at or above the rim.

Unfortunately, Monday's game showed this strategy doesn't work when the Blue Devils also shoot at an insane rate from three-point range.

The team was red-hot from the outside at the start of the game, making six of the first seven shots from beyond the arc before ending the first half 9-of-17 from three.

The Aztecs played well defensively but didn't have much to show for it:

Dana O'Neil @DanaONeilWriter

San Diego State was feisty, long, got Duke in foul trouble ... and still trails by 17 at the half.

Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie

Feels like San Diego State didn’t even play terrible on defense that half. And they still gave up 1.44 PPP. Such is the problem with facing Duke. Good lord, this Duke team.

Brandon Champion @BrandonthaChamp

SDSU literally does every thing its supposed to in stopping Duke from driving. And what do the Blue Devils do? They go 9-17 from three. I'm not sure this team can be stopped.

Duke slowed down in the second half, but still finished 41.7 percent from three-point range.

Barrett was a big part of the success, shooting 3-of-6 from deep after going 0-of-4 against Eastern Michigan and 3-of-9 against Army.

Like the rest of the team, you don't want Barrett falling in love with the three ball because that's not the best part of his game. On the other hand, a consistent outside shot provides opponents with fewer options while trying to defended him.

Opposing teams will try all sorts of strategies this season to slow down Duke's offense, which has now topped 80 points in each of the first four games and reached 90 in three of four. If the threes keep falling, however, the best hope for opposing teams might just be to pray.


What's Next?

Duke will now face its toughest test of the season against No. 8 Auburn on Tuesday in the tournament semifinals at 8 p.m. ET. San Diego State will face Xavier in the losers bracket at 2:30 p.m. ET after the Musketeers lost to the Tigers in overtime in Round 1.