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LSJ columnist Graham Couch, Freep-Beatwriter Chris Solari and Freep columnist Shawn Windsor break the night.
Graham Couch and Shawn Windsor and Chris Solari, Lansing State Journal

WASHINGTON – The ghost of Zion Williamson was of great importance.

Duke's all-world freshman alters his shots with his mere presence in the back of the opponents. "Heads like an Invisible Sixth Defender."

His 6 foot-7, 285-pound body weight makes other tall men seem small.As a scorer and offensive rebounder, he becomes a demolition bishop.

The world of college basketball knows him The NBA will do that very soon.

That did not bother Xavier Tillman.

MSU striker Xavier Tillman encounters half the action of the NCAA Regional Final at the second meeting on Duke Javin DeLaurier Sunday, March 31, 2019 at the Capital One Arena in Washington, DC. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

Michigan State Basketball defended Williamson defensively, receiving three steals and blocking two shots 19 of 8 out of 12 shots also had a career high, which helped to bring the Spartans into the Final Four with a win of 68: 67.

And defeat to Duke is likely to end Williamson's short but uncompromising college career, which could very well be the No. 1 in NBA design this summer.

"Of course I'm not concentrating on single battles, but he was playing a great solid defense." Williamson said of Tillman. "And I think what they did was, I think, if I caught them on the post they brought or two or three defenders, so I could not turn. And it was obviously a great defense. He played great defense.

More: Windsor: Tom Izzo OK gave the game of his life. Then stunned MSU Duke

Williamson had still done a lot of work and ended up with 24 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

He had 17 points and eight boards in the second half, scoring 10 points. The first 4:48 that will help Duke with a 12-5 run in one of the 16 major changes in the game. Much of it came from aggressive post-moves and the launching of the offensive glass, where he had seven of his rebounds to help the Blue Devils to an overall 42-31 advantage.

However, Tillman crashed just as hard. The 6-8, 245-pound second grader finished nine rebounds, including six offensive boards. He got help with nine Kenny Goins rebounds, four of them in the attack and five boards of Nick Ward from the bank. The Spartans managed to keep Duke's second chance at 16:12.

"We did a good job of keeping Zion off the boards," said MSU coach Tom Izzo. "When they sent them to the post, it was a hard sledding. We had to make some adjustments to make some changes. The players also made good adjustments during the race and that was great.

MSU striker Xavier Tillman defends Duke striker Zion Williamson during the second half of MSU 68-67 in the NCAA East Region final on Sunday, March 31, 2019 in Washington. [Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press]

Tillman's pressure and assistance in defending the Spartan guards also forced Williamson to make five of Herzog's 17 envelopes, resulting in 24 MSU points.

More: MSU fans respond to Duke's beating: Waiting since 2005

Tillman said the mission for guarding Williamson was "just that he his tendency does not allow. "

a serious guy with a right shoulder, "Tillman said. "So try limiting him as much as possible from his right shoulder, making his touch hard, and not giving him any punches."

Williamson still ended up with dunks a few times on the edge did Tillman He left the duke Star 10 of 19 shots earn.

31. March 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Duke Blue Devils striker Zion Williamson (1) struggles against Michigan State Spartans forward Xavier Tillman (23) in the second half of the East Regional NCAA 2019 Championship game at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports [Photo: Amber Searls, Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports]

Neither Williamson nor Duke trainer Mike Krzyzewski would address what would come next.

"I'd rather not talk about the future now," Krzyzewski said. "Let's just handle the moment, as Zion said, and respect the moment, the moment of your victory and the moment our season ends, and I'd rather deal with it."

Still, Williamson's next game is sure to be in the NBA. And Tillman's next game will take place in Minneapolis, with a national title as the last prize.

"It's unreal," Tillman said after the victory on the field. "In the summer I just had it in my head, working on my body, working on my game and working on my shot. I was so obsessed that I wanted to come back to the tournament and signal. And as you can see, we did it.

Contact Chris Solari at csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari . Read more about Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

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