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After Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury, the production of Cam Reddish became even more important for Duke to get the win over UNC on Wednesday night. While it wasn’t enough in UNC’s 88-72 victory, Reddish had a career high with 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting. The third wheel of Duke’s “Big Three” for much of the year, Reddish has found his stroke in recent weeks and continues to add new facets to his game as his freshman year progresses. If Williamson is out for any considerable amount of time, Reddish’s points production will be even more crucial as Duke pursues a No. 1 seed in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
SHADES OF IRVING
Williamson’s 31 seconds of playing time Wednesday night felt like a microcosm of Kyrie Irving’s eight regular-season games in a Duke uniform. The atmosphere inside of Cameron Indoor Stadium is always insane for the UNC game, but for whatever reason Thursday night, felt like it had been turned up even another notch before the game tipped off. Then, Williamson’s Nike shoe blew up after he planted to go around UNC’s Luke Maye for Duke’s first points of the game, and the air got sucked right out of the building.
Duke will need to find a combination of players to help replace the production of Williamson as it finishes out the final five regular-season games of the year and potentially, into the postseason. With games remaining against Syracuse, Virginia Tech and North Carolina — all top-half teams in the ACC — the Blue Devils will either have to re-examine their approach to both offense and defense, or plug guys into roles they have not been comfortable playing yet this season. Whether it means Tre Jones becoming more of a scorer with some designed pick-and-rolls with Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, Alex O’Connell becoming more than just an outside spot shooter or Jack White finding his stroke again from 3-point range, the Duke coaching staff has some magic to work out quickly.
BARRETT REACHES 600
Barrett scored 30 or more points for the fifth time this season against the Tar Heels, going for a game high 33 points on an 11-for-22 shooting night. That propelled the star freshman to join the 600-point club, becoming the fastest freshman to hit that mark in program history. Barrett now trails Kinston High product Brandon Ingram (624 points in 36 games), Jahlil Okafor (657 points in 38 games), Jabari Parker (670 points in 35 games) and Marvin Bagley (694 points in 33 games). Barrett accomplished the feat in just 26 games and now needs just 94 points to tie Bagley for the most points ever scored by a Duke freshman. If he continues on his pace of averaging over 23 points per game, Bagley will hit 694 before the end of the regular season with the chance to pad his stats in the postseason.
TIED FOR FIRST IN ACC
The loss to North Carolina was more than just a tough hit in the Tobacco Road Rivalry. It forced Duke into a tie with UNC and Virginia for first place in the ACC standings and for the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Duke still holds the tiebreaker over Virginia after sweeping both games against the Cavaliers, but will need to win the rematch over UNC on Mar. 9 to lock down first place for the first time since 2010.
TOUGH STRETCH ONGOING
Now two-thirds of the way through the team’s difficult six-game stretch — and looking likely to finish it off without their best player in Williamson — Duke goes on the road to take on Syracuse on Saturday evening and then head to Blacksburg to battle with Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. The Blue Devils currently sit at 3-1 in the six-game string and will put themselves in a great position in the ACC standings with wins over their next two opponents.
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.