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The usual suspects lead Duke past North Dakota State

The usual suspects lead Duke past North Dakota State

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No. 1 Duke 85

No. 16 North Dakota State 62

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Zion Cam, for at least a little while, was Bison Cam.

On a night when CBS trained one of its cameras on Duke’s Zion Williamson for the entire game, North Dakota State stole the show before the top-seeded Blue Devils — and Williamson — found their rhythm and pulled away for a 85-62 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Colonial Life Arena.

With Duke leading just 31-27 at the half, Williamson took over in the second half, scoring 15 of his 25 points as the Blue Devils advanced to the second round, where they’ll meet the winner of the UCF-VCU matchup that tipped off late Friday night.

Williamson, playing 90 miles from his hometown in Spartanburg, was supposed to star in what what was expected to be a Duke romp, as oddsmakers made the Blue Devils 27-point favorites.

Instead, NDSU came out swinging and landed a few haymakers, taking a 12-5 lead in front of a stunned crowd into the first media timeout.

It was no fluke, as the 16th-seeded Bison packed its defense into the lane, forcing the Blue Devils to settle for 3-pointers and contesting every shot at the rim.

On the other end, NDSU spread the floor and 5-11 guard Vinnie Shahid went to work, drawing two fouls from Duke point guard Tre Jones on his way to 15 points in the first half.

Ranked fifth nationally in total rebounds coming in, Duke couldn’t get an inch in the lane during the first half, getting outrebounded 19-4. Most importantly, the Bison held the Blue Devils to just one offensive rebound, limiting their chances.

Leading just 31-27 at halftime, Williamson got to work making up for lost time with six points in two minutes, bringing the arena to life with a dunk before a steal and coast-to-coast layup blew the roof off, keying a 30-8 run that saw Duke put the game well before the 10-minute mark.

That was only the start, though, as Duke finally hit the gear it showed in its run to last week’s ACC Tournament championship, blocking shots and forcing turnovers to fuel its devastating transition offense where Williamson and fellow freshman RJ Barrett threw down one dunk after another while Cam Reddish found his rhythm from beyond the arc.

From there, Duke led by as many as 31 before working in its reserves, with 11 players getting into the game and 10 scoring.

Barrett finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, while Reddish chipped in 12 points.

Ranked 338th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage coming in, the Blue Devils rebounded from a slow start beyond the arc to hit 8 of 19 attempts.

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