CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s wholesome, after which there’s wholesome, and, to be clear, Zion Williamson was extra the latter than the previous Thursday night time.

His pregame layups ignited cheers. A 360 dunk his third time via the road was merely an appetizer for the entree that was to come back.

Seems to be like he’s feeling OK. pic.twitter.com/GQgmpeI1ta

— Sporting Information (@sportingnews) March 15, 2019

Zion was again, and there was little doubt about it.

The 6-7 freshman wunderkind scored Duke’s first basket 92 seconds into the sport — a couple of minute longer than he lasted in an look for the Blue Devils some three weeks earlier when his sneaker gave approach in entrance of greater than 9,000 Cameron Crazies and a former U.S. president — after which adopted up that opening rating with a steal and tomahawk dunk that turned the Spectrum Middle right into a madhouse due to course he would.

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“I needed to be on the market each recreation,” Williamson stated of lacking 5 video games with a knee sprain brought on by the shoe collapse. “I see my brothers on the market battling, and I simply needed to go to conflict with them.”

His return Thursday was extra of a skirmish because the Blue Devils (27-5) coasted to an 84-72 victory over Syracuse (20-13) within the ACC Match quarterfinals. The Orange minimize the Blue Devils’ lead to some extent early within the second half, but it surely by no means felt as if they have been able to spoiling Williamson’s night time.

Duke followers booed when Jack White didn’t see an open Williamson tearing down the sideline for a would-be breakaway dunk. Followers and media had spent weeks build up the legend of Zion Williamson, and they’d not be disadvantaged of a possibility so as to add to his limitless spotlight reel.

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An editor would have chastised a author for making the script too unbelievable. Williamson didn’t miss from the ground your entire night time — only a ho-hum 13-of-13 — in a efficiency by no means earlier than seen within the ACC Match’s 66-year historical past.

“I don’t suppose he missed a shot in apply immediately, both,” Duke freshman wing Cam Reddish instructed Sporting Information. “Fairly positive he’s like 100 of 100 immediately.”

Nearly every little thing was good about his comeback. Except for almost being tripped by Syracuse’s Frank Howard and 2-of-9 capturing from the free throw line, the seemingly prime choose within the upcoming NBA Draft was flawless.

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“I wouldn’t say good,” Williamson stated. “I couldn’t actually throw a tennis ball into the ocean with my free throws, so I wasn’t good.”

So perhaps he wasn’t “good,” however his timing couldn’t have been extra so. Duke clearly struggled with out the phenom; it stumbled to a Three-Three document to shut the common season. The Blue Devils have been swept by rival North Carolina and outscored by a mixed 25 factors within the two video games.

Friday night time, Duke will get an opportunity to show the outdated adage “Third time’s a allure.” It’ll have one other appointment-television showdown with UNC because of the Tar Heels simply dealing with Louisville within the quarterfinal proper earlier than Duke-Syracuse.

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Duke will probably be with out an injured Marques Bolden, however make no mistake: A North Carolina win in Charlotte could be far faraway from any asterisk related to the earlier two. The Blue Devils are a complete totally different animal with Zion within the lineup. He is transcendent, jaw-dropping, a human spotlight.

Zion Williamson is again; so, too, is Duke, and there’s little doubt about it.

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