Not much good for Tar Heels to take out of home drubbing
When North Carolina lost to Duke last month in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Tar Heels left Durham feeling optimistic. They had success introducing a smaller starting lineup, and that confidence proved justified when UNC won its next six games.
There was no such encouragement from the rematch Saturday night at the Smith Center. The good feelings from the recent surge and the emotion of senior night in one the most intense rivalries in sports couldn’t stop the Blue Devils from making shot after shot — or the Tar Heels from missing just as frequently on the other end.
Duke scored the first 14 points and led by 25 midway through the second half en route to a comfortable 69-53 victory — the Blue Devils’ biggest road win in the series in 11 years.
Seth Curry made his first seven shots and had 15 points as Duke (27-4, 14-4 ACC) led 28-11 midway through the first half.
“I think Seth couldn’t miss the first five minutes, and that was a stab in the heart because they were up 14-0,” UNC senior Dexter Strickland said. “We were down 18 going into the second half and they’re too good of a team to come back from a big lead like that.”
Duke shot 55.1 percent — the first time the Blue Devils made more than half their shots in 21 games against a Roy Williams-coached UNC team. On the other end, the Tar Heels (22-9, 12-6) shot just 33.9 percent and none of the six regulars made half their shots.
UNC was even worse from behind the arc, preventing any chance at a comeback. The Tar Heels’ lone 3-pointer in 14 attempts came from Hairston with five minutes left, cutting the deficit to 14, but UNC made just one field goal the rest of the way.
The Tar Heels’ struggles were exemplified by a transition opportunity in the second half when point guard Marcus Paige drove the middle with James Michael McAdoo on his right. Paige wound up charging into Duke’s Ryan Kelly while attempting an over-the-head pass to McAdoo that sailed out-of-bounds.
Williams tried going back to a conventional lineup with two big men — at one point even putting in seldom-used post players Joel James and Jackson Simmons. But nothing he did could stop Duke’s recent success in the series — the Blue Devils have now won seven of their past nine games against the Tar Heels.
When asked what he would remember about his senior night, Strickland responded: “I’ll remember that we lost. It was a horrible game for us as a team and something I’ll never forget.”
But even Strickland said he couldn’t dwell on it too much. If anything, it could provide plenty of motivation heading into the postseason.
“We’ve got to give them some time because mentally it’s been a tough stretch with a young team,” Williams said. “We gotta give them a little bit of time but also we have a lot of work to do, and I’ve never had a team that’s folded and this team’s not going to fold. We’re going to work extremely hard and we’ll play well the next game, I believe that from the bottom of my soul.”
NOTE — The loss did not affect UNC’s place in the ACC Tournament. Because of an N.C. State loss earlier in the day, UNC was already locked in to the No. 3 seed and will face either No. 6 Florida State or No. 11 Clemson in the quarterfinals Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Greensboro.
|No. 3 DUKE 69, NORTH CAROLINA 53|
Percentages: FG .551, FT .833.
3-Point Goals: 5-15, .333 (Cook 2-5, Curry 2-6, Thornton 1-2, Sulaimon 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 1 (Kelly).
Turnovers: 15 (Mas. Plumlee 3, Kelly 3, Curry 2, Hairston 2, Cook 2, Thornton, Sulaimon).
Steals: 5 (Thornton 2, Cook, Curry, Mas. Plumlee).
Technical Fouls: None.
|James M. McAdoo||34||6-14||3-4||1-3||0||1||15|
Percentages: FG .339, FT .769.
3-Point Goals: 1-14, .071 (Hairston 1-6, Paige 0-1, McDonald 0-3, Bullock 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 4.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Paige 2).
Turnovers: 11 (Paige 5, Bullock 2, Strickland 2, Johnson, Hairston).
Steals: 6 (Hairston 3, McAdoo 2, Bullock).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials—Roger Ayers, Les Jones, Tim Nestor.