Among the sold-out 19,812 flooding The Garden were a collection of many who just wanted to watch Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and others up close, like NBA’ers Jimmy Butler, Trae Young, Jared Dudley, Kevin Knox and Emmanuel Mudiay.
The 69-58 final tally doesn’t encompass that Texas Tech (10-1) pushed Duke (11-1) more than most others have, and beyond what many expected.
It also doesn’t highlight that the Red Raiders led at halftime and early in the second half, where they had a 77.4 percent win probability with as little as 13 minutes left to play.
Barrett struggled from the field, shooting 7-of-22, but converted on four of his last seven attempts, electing to attack the basket in favor of hoisting from the perimeter. The Canadian-born baller ended the night with 16 points, 10 of which came in the final 10:16.
Williamson had 17 points and 13 rebounds, but fouled out with over three minutes remaining – albeit on a questionable charging call and had five turnovers.
Still, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard insists that Duke is for real.
“They’re a really good defensive team,” Beard said of Duke following the loss. “I think because they have the hall-of-fame coach and great players, everybody talks about the talent, the offense. It’s tough defense. They make it very difficult for you to run your offense and it kind of turns into a dribble-drive type of game.”
Barrett and Williamson are projected as the top-two players for the 2019 NBA Draft, and both won’t turn 19 until next summer.
That leaves great expectations and room for improvement, which Williamson discussed post-game in the locker room.
“(I’m working on) kind of everything because I’m only 18,” he offered. “I’m still young. I want to develop as much as I can.”
He was also inevitably asked about the New York Knicks, who, as one of the worst teams in the NBA, will have a shot at Williamson in next year’s draft, if they remain near the bottom of the league’s standings.
“I think this is RJ’s team. RJ, you wanna play for the Knicks?” he said, playfully redirecting the question to Barrett across the locker room, who responded, “If they draft me, yeah.”
Williamson had a similar answer.
“If they draft me, yeah, I would love to play for the Knicks,” he said. “I don’t really care where I go. Just the experience of being in the NBA, whoever wants me and whoever sees the most in me, that’s where I wanna be.”
Off all Duke’s freshmen, point guard Tre Jones, another likely one-and-done, stole the show. Jones ended a 39-minute showing with 13 points, five assists, six steals and loaded praise from legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“For me obviously, again you all with have your areas of expertise in making opinions of this, but Tre was the key to the game,” said coach K. “He just turned it around for us with six steals, usually he’s not looking for his shot, he willed balls in and all of our guys just fed off of that.
“One of the best things, whether I’m coaching the USA Team or a Duke team is having the ability to have real-time leadership while the game is going on,” he continued. “Tre gives me the opportunity to do that.”
For Texas Tech, potential future NBA pick Jarrett Culliver left a lasting impression, recording 25 points, six rebounds, four assists and four made three’s. Former St. John’s big man Tariq Owens – now a graduate transfer with Texas Tech – added six points, four rebounds and a block.