DURHAM, N.C. — Freshman sensation Zion Williamson was knocked out of the North Carolina-Duke rivalry game with a knee sprain after his Nike shoe blew out during the top-ranked Blue Devils' opening possession Wednesday night.
While describing the sprain as mild and the knee as stable, coach Mike Krzyzewski said he doesn't know how much time Williamson will miss.
A star-studded crowd that included former President Barack Obama, Spike Lee and Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. packed into Cameron looking for another highlight-filled show from Williamson, the ACC's second-leading scorer at 22.4 points per game and arguably the most exciting player in college basketball.
But Williamson grabbed his right knee in pain after slipping awkwardly and falling when his left shoe fell apart as he planted hard while dribbling near the free throw line. The blue rubber sole ripped loose from the white shoe from the heel to the toes along the outside edge, with Williamson's foot coming all the way through the large gap.
Williamson walked off with a slight limp but under his own power before heading back to the locker room with no shoes on his feet.
No. 8 North Carolina took advantage of Williamson's absence to beat the Blue Devils, 88-72.
Duke is four years into a 12-year deal with Nike as the exclusive supplier of uniforms, shoes and apparel. The private school didn't disclose terms of the 2015 contract extension.
Nike has had an exclusive deal with the university since 1992.
Luke Maye took full advantage of the injury to Williamson, finishing with 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 8 North Carolina.
Cameron Johnson added 26 points and Garrison Brooks had 14 to help the Tar Heels (21-5, 11-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) earn their most lopsided win at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 30 years.
By winning their ninth in 10 games and beating a top-ranked team for the first time since 2013, they pulled into a first-place tie with the Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2).
RJ Barrett matched a season best with 33 points and fellow freshman Cameron Reddish added a season-high 27 for Duke — but the rest of the team combined to score just 12.
Duke looked lost without Williamson. Meanwhile, North Carolina took advantage of the Zion-sized hole in the lane, scoring 32 of its first 34 points in the paint and finishing with a 62-28 scoring advantage there. The Tar Heels never trailed, pushed their lead to 22 on Johnson's layup with about 16 minutes left and held on.
Eight nights after the Blue Devils rallied from 23 down in the final 10 minutes to win at Louisville, they couldn't come up with another comeback — especially without Williamson.
North Carolina: This was quite a statement from the Tar Heels, who followed up the most lopsided ACC road victory in school history with their most lopsided win at Cameron since they won by 20 here in 1989. It also was their first win over a No. 1 since knocking off Michigan State in December 2013.
Duke: The result of the game seems secondary to Williamson's health, given how much he means to the Blue Devils and their national title hopes. Now the question is how the Blue Devils will handle playing without arguably the biggest star in the sport. Each of Duke's losses since November came at home after a key freshman was injured early, with point guard Tre Jones' shoulder injury leading to an overtime loss to Syracuse.
North Carolina: Plays host to No. 16 Florida State on Saturday.
Duke: Visits Syracuse on Saturday night.