CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Duke freshman star Zion Williamson is back for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils’ quarterfinal matchup with Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, throwing down a soaring dunk in transition barely two minutes into his return.
Williamson got the start after missing nearly six full games with a knee sprain suffered in the opening minute of last month’s loss to rival North Carolina, a moment that included his left foot tearing through his shoe as he fell to the court. Ranked No. 1 at the time, the Blue Devils had been 3-3 with the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson out.
Williamson’s mere appearance was enough to create a stir when he took the court for pregame warmups, with a line of reporters taking photos or shooting video under the basket of his shots and mid-speed dunks. He drew a loud cheer when he was introduced during pregame warmups, then another as he scored in the post over 7-2 defender Paschal Chukwu 90 seconds into the game.
About 30 seconds later, Williamson stole a pass and raced down for his latest high-flying highlight that sent both the Duke and non-Duke fans alike into a full roar about 30 seconds later. And by the midway point of the first half, he had thrown down two more dunks — one off an alley-oop pass from RJ Barrett — and had single-handedly outscored Syracuse 15-11.
Williamson, The Associated Press player and newcomer of the year for the ACC, even hit a 3-pointer despite shooting just 29 percent from behind the arc this year. He came in averaging 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25