Zion Williamson, No. 1 Duke Beat No. 4 Virginia Tech Without Injured Cam Reddish

Zion Williamson, No. 1 Duke Beat No. 4 Virginia Tech Without Injured Cam Reddish
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils looks at Ty Outlaw #42 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The top-seeded Duke Blue Devils overcame the absence of star freshman Cam Reddish to outlast the No. 4 Virginia Tech Hokies 75-73 in the NCAA men’s tournament’s Sweet 16 at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., on Friday and punch their ticket to the Elite Eight.

Virginia Tech guard Ahmed Hill had a chance to send the game to overtime on the final play of the game, but his tip shot would not go down, which preserved the win for Duke.

With Friday’s win, Duke will meet second-seeded Michigan State in the East Regional final for a spot in the Final Four:

After coming up huge in the clutch during Duke’s round-of-32 win over UCF, Reddish did not play Friday because of a left knee injury. With Reddish out, the freshman trio of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones came up huge for the Blue Devils.

Williamson starred with 23 points, six rebounds and three blocks in the game and entered some elite company when taking his season-long performance into consideration:

Barrett got off to a slow start with just three points in the first half, but he turned it around to finish with 18 points, 11 assists and four rebounds. He made NCAA tournament history for the Blue Devils:

Jones also stepped up with 22 points, eight assists and four rebounds in what was arguably his best performance of the season.

The Hokies held a four-point lead at halftime and received balanced scoring, as Kerry Blackshear Jr., Justin Robinson, Hill and Wabissa Bede all scored in double figures. Blackshear led the way with 18 points, but it wasn’t enough, as Virginia Tech shot just 40.3 percent from the field to Duke’s 55.4 percent.

Virginia Tech jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the first half, but Duke managed to keep it close throughout due primarily to the play of Williamson and Jones.

As usual, Williamson made several high-impact plays, including this monstrous dunk while following a miss:

For as effective as Williamson was offensively, he also made his presence felt on the defensive end with perhaps the most emphatic block of the college basketball season:

Former Kentucky and NBA star Rex Chapman was among those who were blown away by the rejection:

While that block with the game tied at 17-17 seemed to give Duke some momentum, Virginia Tech quickly erased it with a highlight-reel play of its own.

Hill threw down a massive alley-oop dunk off a pass from Robinson to put the Hokies back on top and send their fans into a frenzy:

Later in the half, Jones gave Duke the lead with an and-1 layup before knocking down the free throw as well:

Another bucket put Duke up by four, but the Hokies outscored the Blue Devils 14-6 for the remainder of the half and entered the locker room with a 38-34 lead.

Hill led all scorers at halftime with 13 points, and Hank Kurz Jr. of the Associated Press felt that was a good sign for Virginia Tech entering the second half:

Meanwhile, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today pointed out that Duke was missing Reddish since his absence hurt head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s depth considerably and forced him to lean heavily on his other stars:

Jones and Williamson were up to the task with 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the first half, but Barrett struggled mightily out of the gates with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Joe Giglio of the News & Observer had a rather blunt assessment of Barrett’s play during the first 20 minutes:

Given Barrett’s struggles, Duke made a concerted effort to get him going early in the second half, and he responded by scoring 13 of the Blue Devils’ first 19 points.

With Barrett putting Duke on his back and giving the Blue Devils the lead, Williamson once again chimed in with an emphatic play at the perfect time.

In a nearly impossible feat of athleticism, Zion grabbed a high alley-oop pass from Jones and threw it down to extend the Duke lead to six nearly midway through the second half:

ESPN’s Mina Kimes had the following to say about Williamson’s ridiculous play:

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also chimed in:

Despite Barrett and Williamson getting the momentum firmly on Duke’s side, the Hokies continued to battle.

With Virginia Tech down by eight, Robinson completed an old-fashioned, three-point play to keep the game within reach, and Blackshear repeated the feat shortly thereafter:

Virginia Tech cut the Duke lead to as little as two, but the Blue Devils extended it with a Jones three followed by another thunderous jam from Williamson to get the lead back to seven:

The Hokies chipped away once again, however, and whittled the Duke lead back down to two with 30 seconds remaining. A missed free throw by Jones gave Virginia Tech a chance to tie or win the game on the final shot, but Hill couldn’t get it to go.

With the win, Duke is back in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row and the 21st time in program history. Meanwhile, the Hokies were denied their first trip to the Elite Eight since 1967.

The Blue Devils had to fight tooth and nail to win each of their past two games, and with Reddish’s status in question, they figure to be in for another battle against MSU in the Elite Eight.

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