Tar Heels shoot down Blue Devils in rivalry game

The Tar Heels defeated rival Duke 91-87 Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the first of two scheduled meetings this season.

North Carolina jumped out to an early lead on Duke then held off a series of Blue Devils rallies to win the first installment of the high-profile rivalry game, 91-87, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.

Both teams entered the game unranked and coming off a loss for the first time since 1950, although in recording their first Quadrant I win of the season, the Tar Heels may have worked their way back into the Top 25 when the new poll comes out on Monday.

North Carolina forced Duke turnovers on the first three possessions and hit its first four 3-point attempts to go up by 10 early, 17-7.

The Blue Devils battled back and took the lead near the end of the first half before the Tar Heels pulled in front by two at the break.

UNC built a double-digit lead near the start of the second half, leading by as many as 12, before Duke again rallied, tying the score at 77.

Duke trailed by two and had the ball with 15 seconds remaining, but Wendell Moore — the hero of last season’s buzzer-beater in the Smith Center — was called for an up-and-down travel when he went for a layup but couldn’t get the shot off.

Three Thoughts

1. It was a game of unsung heroes for Duke. With the Blue Devils battling a serious size disadvantage in the post, freshman center Mark Williams came up big in the first half. Seven of his team-high eight rebounds came in the first 20 minutes to give Duke a rebounding advantage at the half. He also blocked three shots. Seldom-used freshman power forward Henry Coleman also gave Duke productive minutes, scoring four points with two rebounds, two assists and a block in 12 minutes. Junior Joey Baker, who has struggled all season, scored 11 points, hitting a trio of 3-pointers.

2. The Duke bench production was necessary because leading scorer Matthew Hurt had a rough game. Hurt was limited to one shot attempt and zero points in the first half and fouled out with more than four minutes left in the game, finishing with a season-low seven points.

3. UNC freshman guard Caleb Love had his best game of the year, scoring 25 points to lead both teams. Love hit 9-of-16, including 4-of-5 from three. He also dished out seven assists, although coach Roy Williams pointed out that it couldn’t be considered a “great game” due to Love’s five turnovers.

Number To Know

10-for-15 — UNC entered the game as the No. 294 team in the nation in 3-point shooting accuracy and had hit nine of their 36 attempts over the last two games. The Heels lit things up from outside at Duke, hitting 6-of-9 from three in the first half and 10-of-15 for the game. Freshman Kerwin Walton hit 4-of-4 in his first Duke game and Love hit four as well.

They Said It

“Our guys played like crazy, and they played like crazy. So it’s a tough loss, very difficult loss.”

— Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Player of the Game

Armando Bacot, Tar Heels center — The sophomore center bounced back from a one-point, one-shot game against Clemson on Tuesday with 16 points and six rebounds against Duke. Bacot started slowly against the Blue Devils, but he came on strong, getting the ball — and a shot attempt — on just about every Carolina possession to open the second half. Bacot was able to score in transition while using his size to get Duke’s leading scorer Matthew Hurt into foul trouble.

Critical thinking

The game was emotional, intense and competitive, with both teams manufacturing motivation in an empty arena. However, both the Tar Heels and Blue Devils showed the inexperience and inconsistency that has them both unrated in the first place.

The game featured several dunks and highlight film drives to the basket that, while showing off the skill of the teams on offense also usually underscored a defensive breakdown by the other team. The teams combined for 31 turnovers. Both young teams are improving, but time is running out on the season.