Maui Invitational underway; No. 8 Auburn playing Xavier
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Zion Williamson poked the ball free with a clear path to the basket, the crowd rising in anticipation before he even reached midcourt.
The voices in the Lahaina Civic Center rising with Duke’s rim-wrecking freshman, Williamson launched through the air, head well above the rim as he threw down a windmill dunk and roars echoed off their ceiling.
Duke’s soaring-and-scoring show hit paradise and it’s showing no sign of slowing down.
The top-ranked Blue Devils breezed through their Maui Invitational opener on Monday, blowing out San Diego State 90-64 to remain undefeated on the Valley Isle.
“They understand being part of something bigger than them, but still being really good,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The spotlight is bigger, their stuff will show if the spotlight’s on the whole team.”
Duke has been the talk of college basketball since its highly-touted freshmen shot the season out of a canon with a blowout win over then-No. 2 Kentucky. The five-time Maui champion Blue Devils arrived in paradise the favorites and played like it against the Aztecs (2-1).
Duke (4-0) built a 17-point halftime lead despite front-court foul trouble — Williamson played seven first-half minutes — and shot 52 percent, making 10 of 25 from the 3-point arc.
The position-less Blue Devils kept the crowd wondering what would happen next with a series of acrobatic moves and finishes at the rim, pushing the lead and themselves into Tuesday’s semifinals against No. 8 Auburn. Duke is 16-0 all-time in Maui.
“They’re good players, it is plain and simple,” said San Diego State’s Jeremy Hemsley, who finished with 12 points. “They know how to play the game of basketball, they play it at a high level.
Devin Watson had 15 points to lead San Diego State (2-1), which plays Xavier in the second round.