The answer to fans of any team hoping to contend with Duke for this year”s national title is “yes” Jason Williams really is that much better than your guys. The Blue Devils” junior guard is, without serious argument, the best player in the country and the reason it will be all but impossible to unseat Duke as the national champion.
In Saturday”s 104-83 victory over Michigan (3-4), Williams led the No. 1 team in the country with 35 points, but it was his first 14 (in the first 4:13) that were more than enough to sink the Wolverines. The Blue Devils (8-0) jumped out to a 29-4 lead in the first eight minutes of play on the strength of Williams” quickness and 3-point shooting ability (7-of-11 for the game). Michigan, meanwhile, shot a dismal 1-of-9 during the stretch. The lead eerily similar to last year”s 34-2 lead at Cameron was enough of a hurdle to keep Michigan grounded.
But with 12:42 remaining in the first half, the Wolverines began fighting back. They no longer allowed themselves to be overwhelmed, and outscored the Blue Devils 79-77 from then on. But the damage was done, and the game essentially became an exhibition.
“The first five minutes of the game we came out taking quick shots and we weren”t getting back on “D,”” said Michigan center Chris Young. “Then they went on a little run and that was it. Those first five minutes are what killed us.”
The run was hardly “little,” but everyone in the maize and blue was pleased with how the team responded to it.
Having been unable to avoid foul trouble so far this year, Young did not pick up his lone foul until there was less than a minute left in the game. He benefited from a Duke offense that revolves around Williams and guard Chris Duhon on the perimeter, but Young”s increased floor time led to a career-high 25 points. He did not permit himself to be bullied by Duke center Carlos Boozer, and fought off Boozer”s help down low.
“Chris Young was the catalyst for us,” Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. “That was our one big bright spot. He really anchored the middle.”
Amaker”s counterpart on the opposing bench agreed.
“(Young) is a real weapon,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Maybe two years ago you don”t say that about Chris Young, but he”s a weapon.”
In the first half, Young and freshman Dommanic Ingerson led the way for the Wolverines. Their regular scorers swingmen LaVell Blanchard and Bernard Robinson went scoreless in the half. Blanchard was a victim of three first half fouls which limited his floor time. Ingerson ended the game with 13 points, including two-straight 3-pointers. The freshman”s refusal to be intimidated and his willingness to shoot the ball against Duke was a refreshing sight for a Michigan team that was awe-struck in last year”s game, and seemed to be equally so on Saturday.
“Ingerson gave them a big lift coming off the bench,” Krzyzewski said of the Wolverines” ability to stay in the game after the initial Duke run. “And they played with energy. They could have gone away.”
Michigan did not go away, but much of the drama of the game was lost after the first few minutes. Everything Williams shot especially from behind the arc seemed to fall. Duhon had nine points, 10 assists and four steals, and the Blue Devils shot 60.3 percent from the field.
As for the matchup between student and teacher, both Amaker and Krzyzewski were mutually respective, but also relieved to have it out of the way.
“I love Tommy,” Krzyzewski said. “Tommy is like a son to me. If you asked my daughters who their brothers are, they”d say Tommy was one of them.”