DuPree column: Foul-plagued Duke wins it at the free-throw line
With the foul trouble Duke had throughout the second half Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, it’s only logical that North Carolina would be able to pull out a victory.
As often happens in this series, the outcome somewhat defies logic.
Four Duke starters finished with four fouls, including seniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry.
But the Blue Devils made all but one of their 14 free throws in the second half, including 12 in a row over the final 3:16 of the game, to put away rival North Carolina 73-68 for the sixth time in the past eight meetings.
That one free throw miss by the Blue Devils? Seth Curry, who was making 85.7 percent from the line heading into the game.
“I’m usually the one who makes plays from the free throw line,” said Curry, who twice had to leave the game when the cushions in his shoes blew out. “Guys did a great job of stepping up there with confidence and knocking down shots.
“We’ve been in situations where we had close games; we know how to find a way to win and just knock down big free throws.”
The Blue Devils admitted that UNC controlled the first half as the homecourt seemingly had Duke at a disadvantage.
“There was tension the whole way,” Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon said. “It started at the beginning. We kind of started out slow; they kind of threw the first punch — we got hit in the mouth.
“Everything I imagined and more. The atmosphere, it was insane.
Sulaimon finished with 13 points in his first game against UNC, including a 3-pointer at teh 13:09 mark of the second half to give Duke a 47-43 lead and send the Cameron crowd to its most deafening volume to that point.
“It was the loudest I’ve seen in Cameron,” Sulaimon said. “It was so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think. It was hard to communicate out there.
“The game especially was very physical. I’ve got bumps and bruises and cuts and blood, but you know, it doesn’t matter at the time. No one wants to come out on the losing end. That just shows that this rivalry really is this great.”
The win on his birthday also gave Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski the upper hand with a 38-37 advantage against UNC. He also tied Adolph Rupp for third place on the list of wins by a coach at one school with 876.
“Part of it is this rivalry,” Krzyzewski said of what has helped his career. “Fans don’t handle it well all the time, but players and coaches do. There’s supreme respect.
“We kind of run the same trail. There’s a competitive respect for each other.”
UNC actually outscored Duke inside, holding a 36-32 advantage in the lane and a 21-12 edge in second-chance points.
But again, that wasn’t enough to overcome Duke.
“I hope they realize how much they invested and that it was also a battle,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It is still a loss. As I said, I am not into moral victories.
“It was there for the taking. They invested more and got more out of it.”
There’s always the rematch, March 9 at the Smith Center, and there’s no telling what could change in the meantime. For now, it’s 1-0 Duke.
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at email@example.com or 919-419-6674.
No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68
Percentages: FG .379, FT .565. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Bullock 4-7, Hairston 1-7, Paige 0-1, McDonald 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 3 (Hairston 2, Paige). Turnovers: 13 (Hairston 3, Strickland 2, Bullock 2, McAdoo 2, Tokoto, Paige, Johnson, McDonald). Steals: 8 (McAdoo 2, Paige 2, Hairston, Strickland, McDonald, Bullock). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .446, FT .850. 3-Point Goals: 6-16, .375 (Thornton 3-4, Curry 2-5, Sulaimon 1-4, Cook 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Mas. Plumlee, Curry). Turnovers: 17 (Cook 5, Mas. Plumlee 4, Sulaimon 4, Curry 2, Thornton, Hairston). Steals: 6 (Cook 4, Jefferson, Mas. Plumlee). Technical Fouls: None.
A—9,314. Officials—Karl Hess, Mike Eades, Bryan Kersey.