There was no shoe controversy surrounding Duke’s Zion Williamson in his return to action Thursday, but another controversy arose on what appeared to be an attempt by a Syracuse player to trip the Blue Devils star.
About eight minutes into the ACC Tournament game, which Duke won 84-72, Williamson threw down one of his patented ferocious dunks and turned to run back down the court.
But Syracuse senior Frank Howard stuck out his right foot while Williamson wasn’t looking in his direction, causing the freshman to stumble a bit.
Syracuse’s Frank Howard appeared to attempt to trip Zion Williamson early in the first half. pic.twitter.com/aNUUebKMXH
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 15, 2019
It looked like it was done on purpose, as the way Howard turned his ankle to jut his foot out is an unnatural thing to do on a basketball court.
Williamson stumbled but kept his balance and didn’t even seem to notice that an opponent might have intentionally tried to trip him.
Immediately afterward, Howard acknowledged that he caught Williamson as he put his hand up as a gesture to signal that he didn’t mean to clip the Duke star.
In postgame interviews, Howard denied it was intentional.
“I realized I tripped him, and I tried to give him a little hand at the same time,” he said, according to ESPN. “I mean it’s the heat of the game with a very tough defender on me, I was trying to get open, get the ball and get the ball out fast and that’s all I really remember of the play.
“I just saw the video really quick, but he’s a hell of an athlete, hell of a player, I have a lot of respect for him. I’m not going to wait four years to get to this stage to start tripping people.”
The apparent trip by Howard would have generated even bigger headlines had Williamson fallen down according to ESPN’s Jalen Rose.
“We’re gonna judge the intent. He didn’t fall — that’s what saves Frank Howard,” Rose said. “Had Zion fell, then we would be looking at this way different.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) March 15, 2019
The fact that a Duke star was involved in a tripping episode prompted a former Duke star to start trending on Twitter even though he was 2,000 miles away from the site of the game in Utah.
Grayson Allen had numerous tripping incidents in college, although he was the perpetrator.
Allen ended up being suspended for one game by Duke and was stripped of his captaincy by coach Mike Krzyzewski.
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