Red-hot Curry, Duke torch Tar Heels
Seth Curry in the first half and Mason Plumlee in the second half made for a quiet Smith Center for most of Saturday night.
Duke’s seniors combined for 43 points as the No. 3 Blue Devils built a 20-point first-half lead and rolled to a 69-53 win over rival North Carolina in their regular-season ending ACC basketball game.
The visiting Blue Devils (27-4, 14-4 ACC) shot 69 percent in the first half as Curry made his first seven shots on the way to a 20-point game.
Plumlee scored Duke’s first 10 points after halftime as he finished with 23 points with 12 rebounds.
“Seth, he was just the best player on the court in the first half,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “In the second half we had the best player on the court in Mason.”
Their production, and the efficient play from the surrounding Blue Devils, left UNC (22-9, 12-6) with little chance for a comeback. The Tar Heels’ cold shooting eliminated all doubt.
UNC went 35 minutes before making its first 3-pointer. The Tar Heels shot 33.9 percent for the night, including 1 of 14 on 3-pointers, as its six-game winning streak came to an end.
“It was an exceptionally tough night for us,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
Duke scored on its first six possessions, with Curry scoring three of the baskets that helped the Blue Devils to a 14-0 lead.
Curry sank two of his trademark 3-pointers in the first half. More impressively, he added baskets from all over the court off dribble-drives.
“Seth Curry toyed with us in the first half,” Williams said.
Curry scored on a bank shot and a floater in the lane, off a jump shot and even had scored while he was falling backwards.
Krzyzewski called Curry’s first half, when he scored 18, “unbelievable.”
“When you get a guy who has hot hand like that you have to get him the ball,” Krzyzewski said.
Curry said he felt comfortable moving around the court against UNC’s defense.
“I was able to create some space in different ways,” Curry said. “I was just being aggressive. I felt like if I got my shot off it had a good chance of going in.”
The rest of the Blue Devils didn’t match Curry’s pace, but they weren’t far behind.
Duke shot 69.2 percent in the first half, making 18 of 26 shots. The Blue Devils were 5 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, UNC was as cold as Duke was hot.
The Tar Heels needed almost five minutes of play in the first half to make their first field goal. James Michael McAdoo scored it and was the Tar Heels’ best offensive player before halftime.
Over the first 20 minutes, McAdoo made 4 of 7 shots, but the remainder of his teammates combined to go 5 of 26 as UNC shot a miserable 27.3 percent. The Tar Heels were 0 of 8 on 3-pointers.
“It all started defensively,” Plumlee said. “Obviously Seth hit shots. He was hitting shots sitting down. Shots were going in. But really it was our defense setting the tone for the game.”
Leading 42-24 at halftime, Duke turned to Plumlee, its 6-10 center, to put the game completely out of reach after halftime.
Plumlee scored Duke’s first 10 points after intermission and had 15 of his 23 points in the second half.
“That’s a man’s half,” Krzyzewski said. “Mason was superb in the second half.”
Duke pushed its lead to as many as 25 points in the second half. UNC never got closer than 14 points after that.
Duke finished the night shooting 55.1 percent. The Blue Devils missed all six of their 3-pointers after halftime but it didn’t really matter.
“To come in here against a team that was playing the best basketball in America and win like that is a testament to our hunger and our will,” said Duke point guard Quinn Cook, who scored 12.
No bright side to this loss for Heels
BY HAROLD GUTMANN
CHAPEL HILL — 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.
Jimmy DuPree Column: Drip, drip, drip, Devils torture Heels
CHAPEL HILL — 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.