COLUMBIA, S.C. — One in, one out for the Duke frontcourt.
With Jack White sitting out with a sore hamstring, Marques Bolden returned to the lineup and chipped in two points and three rebounds in 18 minutes in Friday night’s victory over North Dakota State after missing the ACC Tournament with a sprained left knee.
Bolden, who has missed 16 games due to injury during his time at Duke, suffered the injury in the Blue Devils’ loss at North Carolina on March 9 when his left leg jammed into the basket stanchion after trying to block a shot.
The injury appeared gruesome with Bolden on the floor for several minutes before being carried off by his teammates. Despite how things appeared in the moment, Bolden wasn’t thinking about a worst-case scenario.
"I didn't know what to think,” he said, “but injuries are something I'm used to so I just tried to stay positive and work with the training staff to get back."
With Bolden providing a boost on the boards and UCF’s 7-6 center Tacko Fall, Duke will likely be without White and his floor-spacing abilities for the second straight game.
White participated in some activities in Duke’s practice on Saturday, but wasn’t at full-speed.
“We don’t think he’s going to play,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He had a decent workout today with band work … he’ll try it out probably and warm up, but I don’t think so.”
Time to bake
After five games on the bench, Joey Baker saw his first action since playing five minutes in the blowout victory over Miami on March 2.
Baker, a freshman from Fayetteville, has attracted an unusual amount of attention this season after he made his first appearance as a Blue Devil in a Feb. 23 victory at Syracuse. Although Duke never announced Baker would redshirt this season, that appeared likely after he sat for the first 26 games of the season.
When Zion Williamson suffered a sprained knee on Feb. 20, Baker said he continued to lobby the coaching staff for playing time.
“I just kept telling coaches I’d be ready if they needed me, thought it was necessary or anything like that,” Baker said. “Situation came and I was ready. All year, I’ve just stayed in the gym, kept working and telling coaches I’d be ready to help however I can.”
Over the 11 minutes in the regular season, Baker missed his only 3-point attempt and grabbed two rebounds, but on Friday night, he connected on his first 3-point attempt off a set play and scored his first points as a Blue Devil.
He downplayed the significance of the moment.
“It felt good, but we’re here to win a championship so it doesn’t really matter right now,” he said.
One of Sunday’s subplots will be whether Williamson’s high-flying act will be enough to punch home a dunk over UCF’s 7-6 center Tacko Fall.
Fall joked on Friday night that he wouldn’t allow Williamson to victimize him in a highlight.
Williamson laughed it off.
“What is he supposed to say? Is he supposed to say like I'm going to dunk on him? He said the right thing, but I'm not really focused on that,” he said. “I'm just focused on trying to help my team win the game.”
Fall downplayed the joke too.
“He’s going to do his job, and I'm going to do my job, and whatever happens, happens,” he said.
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