Freshman basketball phenom Zion Williamson will not be suiting up for the Duke Blue Devils in tonight’s highly anticipated re-match with their rival neighbors, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, CBS Sports reported. The contest marks the fifth consecutive game that the 18-year-old will be sitting on the sidelines due to a right knee sprain during the first contest between the two teams in February.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski listed Williamson’s return to the court for Saturday’s contest as “doubtful” on Friday, and confirmed this morning that he would in fact be sitting out for the game. He did reveal, however, that Zion has resumed workouts, and expressed hope that the young basketball player would be ready to go for the ACC tournament next week.
“He had his first really good workout, but not contact. He’ll have no contact today. I would say he’s doubtful for tomorrow, but we’ll see tomorrow,” Krzyzewski told reporters yesterday. “The way he’s going, he won’t be doubtful for the tournament.”
Zion left the first meeting of the famous rivalry just 36 seconds into the game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 20 after sustaining a Grade 1 right knee sprain that also caused his his shoe to split completely apart. Duke fans were left shocked after Williamson did not return to the court for the remainder of the game, which resulted in the Tar Heels soaring past the Blue Devils for an 88-72 win.
Williamson’s teammates have certainly felt his absence on the court since his injury last month. As Bleacher Report noted, the freshman forward shoots 68.3 percent from the field and averages 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. Including their loss to the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils have gone 3-2 leading up to tonight’s contest, and have slipped from the top spot in the rankings to No. 4. The team narrowly came out victorious in their last game against the unranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Tuesday, March 5.
Meanwhile, the UNC Tar Heels have been on six-game win streak that began with their 95-57 win over Wake Forest in the game before their first match-up against Duke, skyrocketing them to the No. 3 spot in the rankings. With a second win over the Blue Devils tonight, the team would cinch a share of the regular-season ACC title that they would share with No. 2 University of Virginia pending a win over Louisville today.
The Tar Heels will take on the Blue Devils sans Zion Williamson for their final regular-season match up at 6 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN.