DURHAM, N.C. (WECT/AP) -Luke Maye took full advantage of a freak injury to freshman sensation Zion Williamson, finishing with 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 8 North Carolina past No. 1 Duke 88-72 on Wednesday night.
A star-studded crowd that included former President Barack Obama, Spike Lee and Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. packed into Cameron looking for another highlight-filled show from Williamson - arguably the most exciting player in college basketball.
But the ACC’s second-leading scorer sprained his right knee during the Blue Devils’ opening possession. Williamson grabbed it in pain after slipping awkwardly and falling when his left shoe fell apart as he planted hard while dribbling near the free throw line. The blue rubber sole ripped loose from the white shoe from the heel to the toes along the outside edge, with Williamson’s foot coming all the way through the large gap.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski classified the injury as mild, but said he doesn’t know how much time Williamson will miss.
“It’s crazy that the two games we’ve lost here, something’s happened in the first part of the game,” said Kryzewski about Williamson’s injury. “The preparation that you would have for the game is obviously based on the players being there, especially [Zion] and RJ [Barrett], who are the key guys."
“When the big fella goes out of the game it changes a lot of stuff for them,” added North Carolina coach Roy Williams. “I have never seen anything like him. It was a huge blow for them and having that happen during the course of the game you don’t have time to prepare for it. I hated that part of it because I think he’s such a wonderful kid. That was a huge blow for them.”
Cameron Johnson added 26 points and Garrison Brooks had 14 to help the Tar Heels (21-5, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) earn their most lopsided win at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 30 years.
"It's a huge different he's going to be the number one pick,” said Brooks. “Having him out was unfortunate. I hope he gets well and that's all I have to say."
By winning their ninth in 10 games and beating a top-ranked team for the first time since 2013, they pulled into a first-place tie with the Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2). RJ Barrett matched a season best with 33 points and fellow freshman Cameron Reddish added a season-high 27 for Duke - but the rest of the team combined to score just 12.
“When we first lost Z they punched us in the mouth,” said Barrett. “It was tough after that, but we started fighting. We didn’t do that the first five minutes of the second half. After that we played hard, but they are just a great team.”
Duke looked lost without Williamson. Meanwhile, North Carolina took advantage of the Zion-sized hole in the lane, scoring 32 of its first 34 points in the paint and finishing with a 62-28 scoring advantage there. The Tar Heels never trailed, pushed their lead to 22 on Johnson’s layup with about 16 minutes left and held on.
Eight nights after the Blue Devils rallied from 23 down in the final 10 minutes to win at Louisville, they couldn’t come up with another comeback - especially without Williamson.