DURHAM, N.C. — Luke Maye took full advantage of a freak injury to freshman sensation Zion Williamson, finishing with 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 9 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 went down during the Blue Devils’ opening possession. Williamson grabbed his right knee 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.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski characterized Williamson’s injury as a mild knee sprain, adding that his star’s knee was “stable.”
“We don’t know how long he’ll be out,” Krzyzewski said, but noted the team should know more Thursday.
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.
By winning their ninth in 10 games and beating an AP top-ranked team for the first time since 2013, they pulled into a first-place tie with the Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2).
More: Zion Williamson blows apart sneaker, heads to locker room with game-ending knee injury
More: Former President Barack Obama attends Duke-North Carolina game
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.
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.
North Carolina: This was quite a statement from the Tar Heels, who followed up the most lopsided ACC road victory in school history with their most lopsided win at Cameron since they won by 20 here in 1989. It also was their first win over an AP No. 1 since knocking off Michigan State in December 2013.
Duke: The result of the game seems secondary to Williamson’s health, given how much he means to the Blue Devils and their national title hopes. Now the question is how much time – if any – he will miss going forward. Each of Duke’s losses since November came at home after a key freshman was injured early, with point guard Tre Jones’ shoulder injury leading to an overtime loss to Syracuse.
North Carolina: Plays host to No. 17 Florida State on Saturday.
Duke: Visits Syracuse on Saturday night.