Reddish emerges as clutch shooter for top-seeded Duke

              Duke forward Cam Reddish (2) makes a move against North Dakota State guard Jordan Horn (33) during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — When Duke needs a clutch 3-pointer, the best option might be Cameron Reddish.

The freshman has been solid overall, hitting one-third of his 3s — but that number jumps to 42 percent in the second halves of games that are either tied or within a possession.

And as teams zone-up to slow down Duke’s Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, Reddish could be the Blue Devils‘ X-factor as they advance deeper into the NCAA Tournament bracket.

Reddish believes it comes down to focus.

“We all just want to win so badly, and we all look forward to taking that shot,” he said. “Just the thing is being focused and being engaged and being ready.”

Next up for top-seeded Duke (31-5) is a rematch with fourth-seeded Virginia Tech (26-8) on Friday night in an East Regional semifinal in Washington, D.C. The Hokies beat the Blue Devils 77-72 on Feb. 26 in their second full game without an injured Williamson.

“We can’t take any team for granted,” Reddish said. “Make sure we give every minute our all. Can’t take any plays off. Every team’s out there playing for their lives, and we have to fight for ours and play our game.”

Shooting from 3-point range has been an adventure at times for these Blue Devils, who rank 330th in Division I with a percentage of 30.7 percent that ranks as the worst — by far — in school history. They don’t have a single shooter who ranks in the top 100 nationally.

Reddish has been the best of the bunch. His 33.3 percent shooting is tops on the team among those who have attempted at least 100 of them.

He’s had his share of off games, with a 1-for-9 against Hartford and a couple of 1-for-8s.

But he’s also shown a knack for making them at important times.

His 3 with 0.8 seconds remaining lifted Duke past Florida State in January. He hit a tying 3 in the final 90 seconds to cap a rally from 23 points down and help the Blue Devils stun Louisville.

And most recently, his 3 — after UCF botched an alley-oop attempt — pulled Duke within one point with 1:44 remaining in a dramatic second-round victory over the Golden Knights.

“They’re young — we’re a young group, but what they did right at the end of that game in willing us to win was just absolutely sensational,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

For Reddish, it’s been a season filled with adjustments. He said he was more of a driver than a spot-up shooter in high school, but that desire to attack the rim has gotten him in foul trouble at times — he had three charging fouls in the home finale against Wake Forest.

“I’ve learned to shoot the ball a ton better since I’ve gotten here, and I’ve become a better defender, more versatile,” Reddish said. “A lot more reps, really. When I was in high school, I was dribbling a lot more, going to the basket, stuff like that. This year, I’ve taken a lot more shots. Basically, making sure I’m shooting the same way every time.”

He doesn’t see himself as the third scoring option on a team that also has Barrett and Williamson, and neither does Krzyzewski.

Barrett has scored at least 13 points in every game and averages an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 22.8 points. Williamson has been a human highlight reel and leading national player of the year candidate who has reached double figures in every game but the North Carolina loss marked by his shoe blowout and subsequent right knee sprain in the opening minute.

“I feel like we’re out there just playing our game and not worrying about who’s scoring,” Reddish said. “That’s when we’re at our best.”