Robert Franklin/Associated Press

Zion Williamson Close to Perfect as RJ Barrett, No. 2 Duke Destroy Notre Dame

Rob Goldberg

No. 2 Duke handed Notre Dame its fifth straight loss with an 83-61 win Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

Zion Williamson had 26 points on 10-of-12 from the field with nine rebounds to lead the Blue Devils, which went up 17-2 and never let the score get to single digits the rest of the game.

RJ Barrett added 17 points and nine boards in a dominant effort on the road for Duke, which held its opponent to 34.8 percent shooting in the game. It was enough to improve to 18-2 on the season, including 7-1 in the ACC.

The Fighting Irish got 14 points and 11 rebounds from John Mooney, but they are reeling with a 1-7 conference record and 11-10 overall. After a blowout loss to No. 3 Virginia on Saturday, they have lost their last two games by a combined 49 points.

             

Zion's Expanded Skill Set More Impressive Than His Dunks

It was the dunks that got Williamson onto the national stage. It's the rest of his game that will make him the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

The freshman has been on a tear lately with his 26-point effort representing the fifth straight game he reached at least 20 points.

Of course, the way he put up his numbers was just as notable as he prepares for the next level. He made several jump shots in the game, including a three-pointer from the top of the key.

While his outside shooting has been a major question mark, it's not as bad as some might think:

He's also already ahead of other notable big men at this point:

When he drove to the basket, he kept his head up and often found others, finishing with four assists.

Even with his big night offensively, Williamson was somehow just as impressive on the defensive end with several stops on the perimeter:

He had four blocks Monday and entered the day averaging an incredible 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks per game, but his versatility and effort on that end are just as encouraging for scouts.

The opponent was weak, but Williamson showed why he is a star in the making against Notre Dame.

If the Blue Devils weren't already must-see television, they certainly are now.

         

Duke's Ability to Torch a Zone Defense Should Scare Future Opponents

Few players in college basketball can guard Williamson or Barrett one-on-one, and with both of them on the court at once, Duke is nearly impossible to stop. Leaving Cam Reddish or Tre Jones open also isn't the best strategy.

Even Virginia and its pack-line defense couldn't slow down the Blue Devils.

This means the best defense against the Blue Devils is clearly a zone, which could keep their best scorers out of the lane and force them to make shots from beyond the arc.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, this strategy didn't work on Monday.

Even while playing much of the night in a 2-3 zone, Duke moved the ball well and found open shots all over the floor. Most importantly, the team made those looks while shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 10-of-19 from three-point range.

This was a big change after the team entered the day shooting just 30.2 percent from deep, including 26.3 percent in ACC games.

While the lights-out shooting won't be there every night, the movement and passing we saw against the Irish can remain consistent every time. It's a young team that is learning and improving every week.

Teams with more length than Notre Dame could cause more problems, but this performance against a zone shows there aren't many good options against this loaded roster.

              

What's Next?

Duke will go out of the conference in its next game with a home matchup against St. John's on Saturday. Notre Dame will travel to face Boston College.

   
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