RJ Barrett, Duke Beat FSU on Cam Reddish Winner; Zion Williamson Drops 11

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2019

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 08: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils concentrates at the free-throw line against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 8, 2019 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Duke won 87-65. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

The top-ranked Duke Blue Devils remained unbeaten in ACC play as Cam Reddish knocked down a three in the closing moments to secure a thrilling 80-78 road victory over the No. 13 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida.

Zion Williamson racked up 11 points and eight rebounds to help pace Duke (14-1, 3-0) to its fourth Top 25 win, but he missed the second half after getting poked in the eye. Fellow freshman sensation RJ Barrett added 32 points.

It's the second loss in three ACC games for FSU (13-3, 1-2) after it navigated nonconference play with a single defeat. Mfiondu Kabengele led the 'Noles with 24 points. Phil Cofer chipped in 21 in the near upset.

                      

Cam Reddish Must Continue to Play Well for Top-Heavy Duke

Reddish is often the forgotten freshman in conversations about the Blue Devils' ridiculous amount of first-year talent. And his up-and-down play as the team's third option behind Williamson and Barrett is reason for concern.

The 19-year-old Pennsylvania native arrived at Duke rated the country's No. 2 prospect, based on 247Sports' composite rankings. And, while he's shown positive flashes, he's struggled with consistency, since his offensive touches can be sporadic.

He entered Saturday's contest shooting 36.1 percent, including 33.7 percent from three-point range. He's also made little impact elsewhere, averaging 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists across 14 appearances.

Those issues continued in the first half against Florida State. He tallied seven points, while Williamson and Barrett combined for 24. Reddish added just one rebound and one assist.

He got more of an opportunity in the second half with Williamson sidelined, putting up 16 points after the break, including the game-winner.

Yet, the Blue Devils need him to produce regularly—even when their top two scorers are both on the court. That will often mean crashing the boards, working as a distributor and continuing to improve defensively. 

The 6'8" Reddish has the length and athleticism to make that happen, but operating as a role player is a learning process for a longtime top prospect.

Duke needs him to find his niche before the NCAA tournament.

                           

Mfiondu Kabengele Emerging As ACC Sixth Man of Year Contender

Kabengele provided a much-needed spark for Florida State on a day when a several of the team's starters struggled to create clean looks.

The sophomore forward finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals, picking up his first double-double of the campaign.

Getting that type of bench production is invaluable, especially during March Madness when the margin for error is thin and coaches go looking for instant offense from a reserve. He's reached double figures in scoring 10 times in 16 games.

His increased role after he averaged 7.2 points as a freshman should also put him at the forefront of the ACC Sixth Man of the Year race.

Kabengele does have competition for the honor, led by the Virginia Cavaliers' Braxton Key and the NC State Wolfpack's DJ Funderburk. And it's the one award where the contenders can change as roles are altered during conference play.

But the FSU forward made a major statement with his effort against an elite Duke squad Saturday.

                    

What's Next?

Both teams must prepare for a quick turnaround, as they'll be back in action Monday night.

The Blue Devils will return home to face the Syracuse Orange, while the Seminoles travel north to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers.

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