|Thursday, January 24
Updated: January 29, 4:20 PM ET
Williams comes through at free-throw line
By Andy Katz
BOSTON -- This is what it has come to in an attempt to beat Duke: foul Jason Williams.
Boston College went to the desperation move in the hope one of the few weaknesses in Williams' offensive game would be exposed. He entered the game as a 64 percent free-throw shooter on the season, a mere mortal career 62 percent free-throw shooter.
But the Eagles had no choice but to hope that the consensus player of the year would miss and allow Boston College to cut the lead to less than 10 points in the final 3:43.
Williams went to the line five times during that time, making six of 10 free throws (eight of 16 overall), but didn't put Duke in any kind of hole.
Ignoring the Eagles' fans attempts of trying to shake him with Florida State "Tomahawk Chop" chants (the Seminoles handed the Blue Devils their only defeat of the season) and a sing-song chant of "Troy (Bell) is better," Williams prevented the Eagles from getting too close. Teammate Carlos Boozer said the philosophy of purposely hacking the best player in the game is moot, especially when Williams knocked down the majority of his shots and Duke held off Boston College 88-78.
"He's too good of a player to worry about (free throws)," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "If he's taking pressure free throws, then we've got the lead and that's good for us to be in that situation."
Boston College coach Al Skinner said his team had no choice, hoping to trade one point for a 3-pointer in the hope they could catch the Blue Devils.
"That was the plan, to foul him late," Bell said. "I didn't expect that (for him to make the free throws). He's shooting like 62 and that's not good."
Williams was 0-for-6 at the line in the defeat against the Seminoles, his worst performance at the line this season.
The fact that Boston College had to resort to trying to 'Wack Williams,' (similar to the 'Hack a Shaq' in the NBA when teams look at fouling Shaquille O'Neal), shows how unstoppable Duke can be in a game.
They were for most of Thursday. This game was billed as two of the best backcourts in the county and technically Bell and Ryan Sidney outscored Williams and Chris Duhon 36-25. But Skinner said the bottom line is about who won the game.
And who shut down whom. It wasn't even close. Bell got hot for a stretch, but not until the second half when he scored 20 of his 26 points with the Eagles trying to fight back from a 29-point deficit. Sidney was a non-factor until he scored eight of 10 points in the second half, but then eventually fouled out.
Duke's defense on Bell and Sidney in forcing them into eight turnovers each (21 overall for the team) was more important of a statistic than any offensive advantage Bell and Sidney might have had at the end of the game. Duhon and Williams took turns defensively and Bell even had Mike Dunleavy and Dahntay Jones running at him.
"But the toughest matchup for us was Dunleavy, he's the 'X' factor," Bell said. "He's pump-faking, knocking down shots and hitting 3s. He was the toughest matchup for us. I'm not taking anything away from Jason. He is a better player."
Sidney had talked smack about the matchup throughout the offseason and then again after the Eagles beat Iowa State in early December. But it was clearly a one-sided rivalry. The fans' chants were appreciated by Bell, but he admitted Williams is the better player. He said he was miffed, though, when Krzyzewski pulled him aside while Williams was at the line.
"I was just looking into the crowd and he called me over and he said, 'What?’ like I was looking at him," Bell said. "I wasn't looking at him. I don't know what happened. He said something like 'I'm better than that or we're better than that.' I don't know what that was about. We're just not two friendly teams after last year."
Bell was referring to when Williams taunted Kenny Walls at the end of the game and Walls responded by bumping Williams into the scoreboard table in Duke's 22-point victory in Durham.
"I had a long summer with those guys and they talked a lot of trash," Bell said of playing with Duhon, Jones and Boozer on the U.S. gold-medal winning Young Men's Championship team in Japan. "It would have been great to come out of here with a win, but we were overmatched. We were down so early and that's a lot of points. You can't take anything away from them. They’re a good team."
Since losing to Florida State, the Blue Devils have been on a tear, ripping the past four teams by an average margin of 22 points. They had a lead bigger than that early in this game, up 42-13 in the first half in what was as good a first 12 minutes Duke has played this season.
"We were so efficient at both ends of the court in the first 12 minutes of the game," Krzyzewski said.
Williams, Duhon, Jones, Boozer and Dunleavy passed the ball with such ease and found every opening. When the Eagles failed to rotate and Dunleavy or Jones was left open, they would nail the shot and increase the lead. It wasn't about the backcourts, it was simply about Duke playing as impressively as it has at any point of the season. Sure BC cut the lead and made a minor run late, but the Blue Devils weren't about to fold, especially with Williams at the line.
"He's going to take a lot of free throws," Krzyzewski said. "It just wasn't as close a game when he was on the line. We had a comfortable lead and a great player (at the line)."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.