Dereck Lively leads Duke shutdown defense against UNC

Duke center Dereck Lively II (1) reacts in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

DURHAM — Duke’s most valuable player in the Blue Devils’ 63-57 win over UNC at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night took a total of three shots and scored four points.

Freshman big man Dereck Lively was dominant in a defensive showcase by the Blue Devils as Duke got a measure of revenge following back-to-back losses to Carolina last season. Duke held the Tar Heels to a season-low 57 points, 21 points below their average. It was the fewest points UNC scored against Duke since 2013 and the fewest in Durham since 2010, on Jon Scheyer’s senior night.

Scheyer earned his 17th win of the season, matching Mike Krzyzewski for the third-most wins by a first-year Duke head coach. He also became the first Duke coach to win his debut game in the rivalry since Bill Foster in 1975.

The defensive effort started with Lively in the middle. He harassed UNC big man Armando Bacot into 6-of-12 shooting, including blocking two of Bacot’s first three shot attempts as Bacot scored his fewest points in a month, 14.

“Really just trying to be able to stay down, stay strong and don’t let him get to the positions where he wants,” Lively said of his defense against Bacot. “Try to keep him out of the paint and try to keep him out of his comfortable area.”

“Oh, he’s a fantastic player,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said of Lively. “And Duke is a fantastic defensive team. They pressure you, they do a great job with their quickness moving their feet. Dereck is one of the best, if not the best, even if he doesn’t block it. His length and his athleticism can alter it.”

Lively finished with eight blocked shots, the most by a Blue Devil against UNC and the second most by a Duke freshman ever, one shy of the school freshman record set by Mike Gminski in 1977. Lively also had a game-high 14 rebounds, including five offensive boards.

“D-Live worked his butt off all night,” Tyrese Proctor said. “He had a big-time matchup and an experienced guy in Armando, great rebounder. He just did his job. He was physical the whole night. His main goal coming into this was just get him off the boards by boxing him out and letting us get all the rebounds for him. All the rebounds that me and [Jeremy] Roach got and all the guys, it’s his work. We just got all the cleanup.

“And I think he had eight blocks or something at the end of the game. It’s just crazy. He had a great game. I think his confidence was there the whole time, but he’s starting to get into a rhythm now.”

While Lively did most of his damage without scoring, two of his points put Duke on top to stay, as he dunked on an offensive rebound with 1:35 left to put Duke up two. Still, it was his defensive performance that helped the Blue Devils pull away in another wild rivalry matchup with the Heels.

“Usually bigs are so hungry to score. That’s not necessarily the most efficient play or the best play for him,” Scheyer said. “He’s all about the team, he’s all about winning, and the impact that he has on defense, besides the blocked shots. But also the shots that he changes, just by being around the basket. He had some big plays by just switching. He’s staying in front of their guards who are really good. It just speaks to the versatility he has.”