CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A No. 1 seed rarely adds a star player to the lineup in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving played for the first time since tearing the ligaments in his right toe against Butler on Dec. 4.
He didn’t disappoint. Irving entered the game roughly five minutes into each half and ended up playing 20 minutes total, as scripted.
He started with a slower step but then picked up the pace and by the second half, Irving was moving quite well laterally. He took the ball to the hoop for a layup and then hit consecutive 3-pointers. Irving scored a team-high 14 points in top-seeded Duke’s 87-45 victory over No. 16 Hampton.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Irving would play if he proved he was ready. Now, Irving will likely get even more minutes. Having Irving play 20 minutes off the bench gave the Blue Devils a quality bench scorer and a game changer.
Of course, the shots will be tougher against Michigan’s defense. But this was a good first start for integrating Irving back into the lineup.
Key stat: Irving’s 20 minutes, 14 points, one assist, two steals, two turnovers, 4 of 4 from the line, 2 of 2 at the 3-point line and four rebounds.
Turning point: When the seeds were announced. Hampton didn’t have much of a shot against Duke, especially once Irving was cleared to play.
Balance: Duke shared the ball. The Blue Devils had 17 assists on 32 baskets and there was balance all around on the box score.
What’s next: Duke plays Michigan Sunday in the third round with the right to go to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim. There happens to be another subplot since Duke and Michigan have been in the news lately in reference to the two programs in the 1990s.