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Zion Williamson is the biggest college basketball superstar in decades. He might be the last true college basketball superstar ever. And on Friday night, he got his one and only NCAA tournament underway in rather loud fashion.
Duke’s fabulous freshman bagged 25 points on 16 shots in the Blue Devils’ 85-62 pounding of North Dakota State. Among the 25 points were a few fierce dunks and a 3-pointer. Fellow frosh R.J. Barrett had a game-high 26 as the No. 1 overall seed sped away from the Bison in the second half.
Zion’s fast start
In some 33 seconds – coincidentally, the exact amount of time it took him to blow through his shoe a month-and-a-half earlier – Zion steamrolled through two North Dakota State defenders for a bucket, then soared and swatted a shot out of bounds.
Incredibly, the Bison hung around for much of the first half. They jumped out to a 14-7 lead, challenging Zion and even scoring over him twice.
But Zion’s first NCAA tourney dunk gave Duke a lead.
Zion’s first NCAA tournament dunk
Here’s another look:
And another look that reinforces the unparalleled power of the 6-foot-7, 285-pound freshman:
Duke led 31-27 at halftime. Williamson and Barrett each had 10, though Zion was very quiet over the latter portion of the half.
In the second half, though, Duke quickly sprinted out of sight.
Zion’s revolutionary idea of a four-point play
After the tight first half, Duke put away the Bison with two dominant minutes to open the second. It outscored the No. 16 seed 9-0. Zion had six of the nine.
Four of those six came in one sequence. He scored through contact and went to the free throw line, from which he put his revolutionary spin on the four-point play. He left the free throw well short, but collected his own rebound and slammed for two more.
Then he won a race for a loose ball and scored in transition.
The Blue Devils extended their four-point halftime lead to 14 in less than four minutes. A minute later, Williamson drilled his only 3-pointer of the game for good measure.
More dunks from Zion and R.J. Barrett
With the game out of reach, Zion continued to throw down. So did his roommate.
First, it was Williamson’s turn.
Then it was Barrett’s turn on an uncontested fast break.
At the second half’s under-12 TV timeout, Williamson was up to 23 points. The two fab freshmen together had already doubled their first-half point total. Duke had stretched its lead to 61-35. Zion would add two more, then exit the game midway through the period.
All eyes (and cameras) on Zion
Zion didn’t go a single minute during Friday’s game without a camera on him. And that’s not just some clever way of describing the unrelenting attention he receives. CBS literally has a “Zion Cam” that will follow the freshman throughout Duke’s NCAA tournament run.
Of course, other cameras, of all kinds, were on him as well. Even in pregame warmups.
The attention will only ramp up as the Blue Devils bear down on the Final Four.
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