"He was running back, I'm trying to get open."
Zion Williamson didn't miss a beat in his return to action last night, as the Duke Blue Devils defeated Syracuse by the final of 84-72, setting up a semifinal matchup against UNC on Friday night.
Several NBA stars had advised Williamson to sit out the rest of the season rather than risk reinjuring his knee or suffering another freak accident ahead of June's NBA Draft, in which he is all but guaranteed to go #1 overall. Such an incident could have occurred in the first half of Zion's return on Thursday, when Syracuse's Frank Howard stuck out his foot in a clear attempt to trip Duke's superstar forward.
According to Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com, Howard explained, "He tripped over my foot, and I said, 'Oh, I was not trying to trip you.' He was running back, I'm trying to get open. I'm being face-guarded. I didn't see the whole video, so I don't even want to answer too many questions about that. There isn't really much more to talk about."
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said afterward (H/T Bleacher Report): "As far as what people were commenting on at halftime, I talked to Frank, I looked at the video; there was no trip involved out there. I don't know who was talking about that, but it was a bump, and...that's it. It was nothing there. Trying to manufacture something out of nothing."
Williamson, who led the way with 29 point, 14 rebounds and five steals, didn't show any signs of sluggishness despite the fact that he missed nearly a month due to a knee injury.
Tonight's game against the Tar Heels, airing on ESPN, is scheduled to tip at 9:00pm ET.