ROUND 1 TO UNC
After a delayed start to the season followed by a prolonged shooting slump, North Carolina senior Leslie McDonald became the latest player to write his name into the history of the UNC-Duke rivalry.
McDonald scored a season-high 21 points and made a career-high nine shots on 12 attempts as the Tar Heels continued their season-long tendency to knock off highly-ranked teams — with none more satisfying than Thursday night’s 74-66 win over No. 5 Duke at the Smith Center.
Students who had waited eight days for the game — ever since the original matchup was postponed because of a snowstorm that prevented the Blue Devils from making the trip to Chapel Hill last week — rushed the court and jumped up and down to celebrate the win after UNC overcame an 11-point second-half deficit.
McDonald missed the first nine games of his senior year because of NCAA violations and shot just 8 of 31 in the last four games. But he hit a 3-pointer in the game’s first possession and made the go-ahead shot when he curled off a screen with 3:54 remaining to put the Tar Heels up 62-60.
“Everybody in the locker room feels really good for Leslie right now,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It’s been a hard time for the youngster, but he was big for us tonight and we needed him to be. ... Leslie’s been struggling ... but he stepped up for us.”
After McDonald gave UNC the lead for the first time since it was 20-18, sophomore Marcus Paige followed with a jumper and a driving lay-up to keep the Tar Heels in front, and freshman Nate Britt and Paige made all six of their free throws in the final minute.
No. 5 Duke had won 7 of 9 overall in the series and 10 of its last 15 at the Smith Center, but became the third top-five team to succumb to UNC, which has won at then No. 1 Michigan State and in a neutral-site game against then-No. 3 Louisville.
Paige scored all 13 of his points in the second half and James Michael McAdoo, who was coming off his worst game of the season Monday at Florida State (0 points, 5 fouls in 13 minutes), rebounded with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels (19-7, 9-4 ACC), who have won eight in a row after a 1-4 ACC start.
Freshman Jabari Parker had 17 points and 11 rebounds in his first UNC-Duke game, but Duke (21-6, 10-4) made just four shots in the final 15 minutes after Parker scored to put the Blue Devils up 51-40.
“They just played a great second half and we didn’t respond to it,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The crowd, the team, the intensity, we just couldn’t match it and that’s why they won.”
The Blue Devils, who lead the conference in both scoring and shooting percentage, missed 13 in a row during a stretch of almost nine minutes to allow UNC to get back into the game.
Duke also shot just 5 of 22 from behind in the arc in a game that matched the league’s best 3-point shooting team against UNC’s ACC-leading 3-point defense.
“I said before the game that we hoped to guard them but we also need them to miss some shots,” Williams said. “And I think it was a little bit of both.”
McDonald was the primary offensive weapon early on, with 11 first-half points on 5 of 7 shooting. Meanwhile, leading scorer Paige had zero points and a game-high three turnovers in the first half, and freshman Kennedy Meeks — who made his last 11 shots Monday against Florida State — finished 1 for 5.
Last year, the Blue Devils scored the first 14 points to take the energy out of the Smith Center on the final game of the regular season. This time, Duke committed turnovers on its first four possessions as UNC scored the first six points.
“Last year on senior day I really felt like we let the crowd down, and I didn’t want to do that again,” Williams said.
Once the Blue Devils were able to get some shots up, they were going in. Duke didn’t record a turnover in the final 15 minutes of the half and made 50 percent of its field goal tries to take a 7-point lead into the break.
UNC couldn’t take advantage of its free throws at first, starting 1 of 8 with McDonald missing the front end of a 1-and-1 twice, but the Tar Heels rebounded to make 19 of their final 23 from the line.
Paige has a penchant for strong second halves after low-scoring starts, and he finally got on the board on a drive with 18:37 remaining. But Duke, which was 2 of 9 from behind the arc in the first half, made their first two from long range after halftime to go up 49-40.
A 3-pointer by Paige — UNC’s first 3-pointer since the first possession of the game — cut Duke’s lead to 1 at 57-56, and though Cook answered with a 3 courtesy of a friendly role, the Tar Heels finally tied the game on a drive by McAdoo with 4:14 left.
“It’s a great, great rivalry and it’s fun to be involved in it,” Williams said. “I loved our team’s composure down the stretch.”
|NORTH CAROLINA 74, No. 5 DUKE 66|
Percentages: FG .429, FT .583.
3-Point Goals: 5-22, .227 (Cook 3-7, Hood 2-6, Thornton 0-1, Parker 0-1, Dawkins 0-3, Sulaimon 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 0.
Blocked Shots: 6 (Parker 2, Hood, Jefferson, Plumlee, Sulaimon).
Turnovers: 12 (Parker 5, Cook 2, Hood 2, Sulaimon 2, Thornton).
Steals: 6 (Sulaimon 2, Cook 2, Parker, Plumlee).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .473, FT .645.
3-Point Goals: 2-9, .222 (McDonald 1-4, Paige 1-5).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 3 (McDonald, McAdoo, Hubert).
Turnovers: 13 (Paige 5, Johnson 2, Tokoto 2, Meeks 2, Britt, McDonald).
Steals: 5 (Tokoto 2, Britt, McAdoo, Johnson).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Bryan Kersey, Pat Driscoll, Ed Corbett.