RJ Barrett pumped in 26 points and Zion Williamson scored 25 points in their first NCAA Tournament game, and top-seeded Duke relied on a huge second half to dispatch No. 16 seed North Dakota State 85-62 on Friday night at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Classmate Cam Reddish added 12 points as Duke won the East Region first-round game.
Williamson, competing in a college game in his home state for the first time, didn’t play in the final nine minutes after making 12 of 16 shots from the field. Barrett collected 14 rebounds.
Duke (30-5), which is in the tournament for the 24th consecutive year, meets the winner of Friday’s late game between Virginia Commonwealth and Central Florida in Sunday’s second round.
Vinnie Shahid scored 20 and reserve Jordan Horn added 11 for North Dakota State (19-16), which had never previously faced Duke. The Blue Devils improved to 14-0 against No. 16 seeds.
Williamson scored six points in Duke’s 9-0 spurt to begin the second half. That turned into a 19-5 stretch, draining much of the drama that might have still circulated.
Williamson had 13 points in the opening six minutes of the second half. Soon after, he was hopping for joy on Barrett’s reverse dunk in transition.
Duke led 31-27 at halftime despite Shahid’s15 points.
North Dakota State led 12-5. Williamson tallied 10 of Duke’s first 20 points, though the score was 20-16 through 15 minutes.
The Bison went up 25-24 before Duke posted the next seven points.
Duke center Marques Bolden was back in action after missing the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a knee injury. Wearing a brace on his left knee, he came off the bench and was the first substitute used by the Blue Devils.
Duke forward Jack White, a reserve forward and team captain, wasn’t in uniform because of a hamstring ailment.
North Dakota State was coming off Wednesday night’s 78-74 First Four victory against North Carolina Central in Dayton, Ohio. That gave the Bison a second NCAA Tournament victory all-time and prevented an all-Durham, N.C., matchup between NC Central and Duke.
—Field Level Media