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That didn’t take long.
Zion Williamson returned to the Duke lineup Wednesday after missing six games with a knee injury suffered on Feb. 20 against North Carolina.
Two minutes into Wednesday’s ACC tournament matchup against Syracuse, Williamson intercepted a pass from Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim as the Orange were setting up in half court. It was off to the races from there.
Big steal, bigger dunk
Williamson outran a pair of Syracuse defenders the other way for an uncontested slam to give the Blue Devils a 4-3 lead.
Zion perfect from the field in win
The dunk was part of a dominant effort that saw him finish a perfect 13-for-13 from the field while tallying 29 points, 14 rebounds, 5 steals and a block in an 84-72 win over Syracuse.
The win sets up an ACC semifinal rematch against a North Carolina team that swept the Blue Devils in the regular season with Williamson injured in both games.
Williamson: Knee feels ‘incredible’
“It felt great,” Williamson told ESPN after the game. “I love this game. I love my teammates. Some people thought I wasn’t going to return. They weren’t smart. I love playing with Duke. I love my teammates.
“They’re entitled to their own opinions,” Williamson said of those who suggested he sit out in preparation for the NBA draft. “I appreciate the input. I can’t leave my boys hanging.”
He added that his knee feels “incredible.”
The first half wasn’t without controversy as Syracuse guard Frank Howard appeared to try to trip Williamson after he scored on another big dunk with 12:15 remaining in the half.
Williamson stumbled but came away unscathed on the play. But with the basketball world watching Williamson and his knee, Howard’s errant foot is sure to draw scrutiny after the game.
Howard denied trying to trip Williamson after the game.
"If you're saying I'm trying to trip him, I don't get it," Howard told reporters. "He's a hell of an athlete. I have a lot of respect for him. I'm not going to wait for four years to get to this stage and start tripping people."
Williamson made his return to the court wearing different shoes than the Paul George model he famously blew through while spraining his knee. After debating wearing LeBron James or Kyrie Irving Nikes, Williamson settled on the Kyrie 4s.
With Williamson back in the lineup, the Blue Devils are looking to advance in the ACC tournament with an outside chance of picking up a No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament play.
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