Jimmy DuPree: Drip, drip, drip, Blue Devils torture Tar Heels
Duke’s Austin Rivers put a dagger through the heart of North Carolina fans on the final shot of the 2012 meeting between the two teams at the Smith Center.
Seth Curry chose to inflict pain paper cut after paper cut, making his first seven shots on the way to single-handedly outscoring the Tar Heels through the first 14:50 of Saturday night’s game at UNC.
Rivers’ shot over Tyler Zeller on Feb. 8, 2012, took the wind out of the sails of UNC fans for almost a month. The Tar Heels’ 88-70 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium spoiled Senior Night — a favor the Blue Devils returned Saturday with a 69-53 victory sparked by Curry’s first-half barrage.
Even a shot that he took while falling to the floor found nothing but net.
“Yeah, I did (think it was going in),” Curry said after finishing with 20 points. “In an open gym, you make a lot of crazy shots. That one today, I had a good angle to the backboard. ...
“We were playing well, we get off to a good start and a shot goes down like that, it gives you more energy.”
The senior didn’t miss a shot until a 3-point attempt rimmed out with 8:28 left in the half.
“He was hot,” UNC junior Reggie Bullock said. “I was trying to contain him; I did a terrible job on him in the first half. (But) he was making some tough shots.”
Not even Ryan Kelly picking up his third foul with 1:53 left in the half could sooth the wounds of UNC supporters. Kelly, who had 54 points in his first two games back from an injury, had only eight against the Tar Heels.
It didn’t get much better in the second half. Though Curry cooled off and only added two more points, Mason Plumlee went on a personal 10-point run through the 15:44 mark to give Duke a 50-30 lead.
“We were just strong all night,” said Plumlee, who had a game-high 23 points. “We have a great dynamic between me, Ryan and Seth where you have two guys spacing the floor, and then I’m inside and you have to pick and chose what you’re going to take away.
“Seth really kept us in front in the first half, and then in the second half, I went on a run.”
Even when Bullock and UNC point guard Marcus Paige broke up an alley-oop attempt, the ball went off Plumlee’s fingertips, rolled in and he made the free throw.
It was that kind of night for the Tar Heels.
Now they have to regroup before playing in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals Friday at 9:30 p.m.
“It won’t shake our confidence,” Bullock said. “I feel like we’ll come out more hungry against whoever we match up against.
“In the first game of the ACC Tournament, we’ve just got to come out like: The end of the season is coming. It adds fuel to the fire, more motivation, more sense of urgency.”
The Blue Devils have the 7 p.m. matchup Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“Last year, we lost this game,” Plumlee said of Duke’s regular-season ending loss to UNC. “(Then we) lost the second game of the ACC Tournament. We weren’t peaking, and now we’re hitting our stride and we can still get even better.
“This is how we said we wanted to go into postseason, and we did it. I thought, defensively, to show that we can hold a high-scoring (team) to 50-some points.”
After the game, UNC coach Roy Williams said Curry “toyed with us” in the first half.
Plumlee had to wait his turn.
“You’re always going to be better when you’re having fun, no matter what you’re doing,” Plumlee said. “If I’m having fun doing homework, the grade’s going to be better.
“We should always try to have fun, but obviously it’s easier when you’re up 20 points.”
There’s no doubt, Duke is up.
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-419-6674.
|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.