North Carolina cruises past Duke after Zion Williamson injures knee, splits shoe in half

A bizarre injury stunned Duke early at home on Wednesday.

North Carolina took full advantage, dominating the Blue Devils in a 88-72 win in front of a star-studded crowd that included former President Barack Obama.

The Blue Devils took a massive blow early when they lost star forward Zion Williamson in the first minute of the rivalry showdown.

Duke deflated after Williamson injury

Williamson planted his left foot while setting up the Duke offense and fell to the floor in pain. He limped off the court to the locker room and did not return with what Duke announced as a knee injury.

Williamson suffered ‘mild knee sprain’

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after the game that Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain.

“We’re very concerned about Zion,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a mild knee sprain. We will know about the length of time tomorrow.”

Williamson’s shoe split in half

Replay showed that Williamson’s left shoe split in half at the sole, and his foot slipped through the break.

Former President Barack Obama, watching from the stands, immediately noticed the equipment error.

A photo of Williamson’s busted left shoe told the story as well.

<a class="link " href="" data-ylk="slk:Zion Williamson;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Zion Williamson</a><span> left Wednesday’s game against UNC after slipping and falling in the first minute. (Getty)</span>
Zion Williamson left Wednesday’s game against UNC after slipping and falling in the first minute. (Getty)

Carolina takes advantage

Cam Johnson made a layup for UNC on the ensuing possession to take a 2-0 lead the Tar Heels would never relinquish as they regularly attacked the Duke post missing its most imposing force.

North Carolina leaned on veterans Johnson and Luke Maye as it ran out to a 42-32 halftime lead built mostly inside. The Tar Heels’ 34 first-half points in the paint were the most Duke had given up all season.

UNC continued to control the game after halftime, going on a 13-0 run early in the stanza to extend its lead to 59-37. North Carolina’s play inside was enough to overcome a dismal game from distance that saw the Tar Heels shoot 2-of-20 from behind the 3-point line. The Tar Heels finished with 62 points in the paint.

Maye finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds, while Johnson tallied 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Duke’s other freshmen not enough

Duke’s other star freshmen stepped up in Williamson’s absence as R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish both had big games. But the Blue Devils struggled to find offense elsewhere.

Jack White took Williamson’s place in the lineup. The junior forward who averages 4.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game was no substitute.

Barrett finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Reddish tallied 27 points and three rebounds. Only four other Blue Devils scored, none of them more than six points. Tre Jones shot 1-of-11 from the field in a three-point, five-assist effort.

Duke looked to close the gap late using full-court pressure in the game’s final minutes. But Carolina’s lead was too much to overcome.

Puma took notice of shoe mishap

Puma, which has pushed hard lately to make inroads into the basketball sneaker game, immediately seized on the shoe-failure opportunity to take a Twitter jab at Nike, which Williamson was wearing.

The company apparently thought better of capitalizing on the incident once Duke announced Williamson’s injury and deleted the tweet.

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