NCAA’s Duke Blue Devils Pummel McGill Basketball 103-58 in Historic Matchup at Place Bell

RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson Shine in Highly Anticipated College Basketball Game

The last stop of the Duke Canada Tour, Laval saw an attendance of over 10 000 for Sunday’s game against McGill at Place Bell. File Photo Brian Lapuz

For the first time in the program’s history, the NCAA’s formidable Duke Blue Devils made their way to Montreal to battle the three time reigning U Sports champions, Aug 19. on the last game of their trip against Canadian opponents.

After both Canadian and American singers performed the national anthem for their respective countries, the excitement in the crowd was palpable; the fans were ready for the game to begin.

With a record breaking 10 098 people in attendance, Duke prevailed by virtue of their size and length and overwhelming athleticism. The North Carolina based team saw strong production, mostly on the fast break, from the jaw dropping lefty duo Zion Williamson and Canadian phenom, RJ Barrett.

The sensational highlight reel tandem combined for 56 points on the afternoon, with six foot seven, 18 year old Barrett pouring in 23 points and 11 assists. His teammate Williamson— whose daunting presence has been compared to that of an NFL linebackers, listed at six foot seven, 285 pounds—added 36 points and 14 rebounds of his own.

“Nothing feels forced when we play together, it’s just natural,” Williamson said about the chemistry between the two.

“We kinda been through the same thing, [with] everybody trying to get at us seeing he’s the [projected] number one player in our [NBA] draft class and I’m number two. So we both just try to [make] each other better.”

Projected to be the best basketball player to come out of Canada in a long time by fans and basketball writers alike, young Barrett is steamrolling his way through success and the world is noticing. The young star has been collecting accolades on his way to what should be a high position in the NBA draft.

The hype surrounding Duke superstar’s appearance in Laval was inevitable. The son of executive Vice President of Canada Basketball Rowan Barrett, RJ earned a gold medal and MVP award at the FIBA U19 World Cup to go with a collection of trophies and titles.

Though the crowd coveted alley oops and powerful dunks every moment Barrett and Williamson had the ball, it was McGill guard Alex Paquin who stole the show in the first half.

Ahead of the game, Paquin made it clear he meant business and expressed his eagerness to play versus the NCAA powerhouse. “I’ve been waiting for this weekend all summer,” he said.

The former product of American University in Washington DC amassed 29 huge points for his team that merited him a standing ovation from the sold out venue upon his exit of the game. McGill Head Coach David Deaveiro commented on the play of his all-star guard, appreciating his efforts.

“I think Alex is a great player. This was his coming out party and he wasn’t going to miss it,” Deaveiro said. “He wanted to prove to everybody that he belongs at this level and he definitely showed that. Our organization is very fortunate to have him.”

Despite filling the stat sheet against arguably the best team the NCAA has to offer, Paquin had little help from teammates. Deaveiro—who led R.J. Barrett’s U19 Team to its first World Cup in 2017—explained his team ran out of steam trying to contain Duke.

“I thought we did a decent job in the first half, but then their athleticism just took over. We got that third quarter where they just dominated us,” said Deaviro.

Despite the blowout victory, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski grew fond of a new city and a new team.

“They played like they thought they were gonna win. They played hard, they were tough and they did smart stuff with the press. They played well until Zion, R.J. and our defense kinda took over. They were the equal of us. We weren’t necessarily playing better,” he said. “This trip was an invaluable experience. The guys didn’t like it, they loved it.”

The Blue Devils close out the trip with three impressive double digit victories against Canadian opponents Ryerson, University of Toronto, and McGill. Duke looks to be front runner for a sixth National Championship under coach Krzyzewski.

On the other side of the court, McGill may have lost the game but still look to be a strong team this season.

Pushing for more consistency and support for Montreal basketball, Coach DeAveiro implores the same energy garnered for the Duke game be duplicated in a local game right here in our city.

“For us to have 10 000 people here is amazing but it means absolutely nothing if we only do it once. Canada plays Brazil here next month, this needs to grow,” he said. “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I think the greatest thing would be Concordia vs McGill in this arena with five to ten thousand people watching. We can get it done.”