North Carolina (27-4, 14-2 ACC) wasted little time in quieting the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd with a 22-5 run off the tip. Duke (26-5, 13-3) cut its deficit to 11 points on four different occasions, but UNC increased its lead to 48-24 at halftime.
The Blue Devils pieced together 7-0 and 19-7 runs to reduce the Tar Heels’ advantage to 11 points with 6:01 to play, but a 7-0 response pushed UNC’s lead back to 18 with 2:04 remaining.
Kendall Marshall scored a game-high 20 points and dished out 10 assists, while Tyler Zeller (19 points, 10 rebounds) and John Henson (13 points, 10 rebounds) also posted double-doubles. Harrison Barnes added 16 points and Reggie Bullock contributed 12 for UNC.
Mason Plumlee led Duke with 17 points and his brother Miles added 16 points and 11 rebounds. Austin Rivers scored 15 points and Seth Curry dropped in 12 points.
UNC shot 54.5 percent from the floor (36-of-66, 4-of-13 on 3-pointers), while holding Duke to 41.3 percent (26-of-63, 6-of-21 on 3-pointers). The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle, 45-28.
North Carolina has won 29 regular season championships, including 19 outright. The Tar Heels have won five of their last seven games at Cameron.
INSIDE THE GAME
Limiting the 3-Ball
The Tar Heels have seen Rivers’s game-winner at the Smith Center countless times. Marshall turned a random ACC game off recently – one that Duke wasn’t playing in – after seeing the 3-ball over Zeller and switched to a Boston Celtics game, where he saw the shot again.
Harrison Barnes told reporters in the cramped Cameron Indoor locker room that he watched the shot during a L.A. Lakers-Miami Heat NBA game.
But the final insult came prior to Duke announcing its starting lineup as River’s game-winner was played on the video screen about Coach K Court. That was enough for Marshall to huddle up his team and make a statement.
“I told my teammates I thought that was disrespectful and we need to go out here and prove a point,” Marshall said.
That point revolved around limiting their opponent’s 3-point shooting. It came as no surprise that seven of Duke’s first 17 field goal attempts were 3-pointers on Saturday. After all, 11 of the Blue Devils’ first 16 attempts in the first meeting were 3-pointers, but there was one glaring difference in the two starts – Duke made five treys 3 ½ weeks ago compared to zero this time around.
The Blue Devils missed nine of their 11 first-half 3-pointers and entered the locker room down 24 points. They shot better from deep after halftime – 4-of-10 – but not well enough to cut their deficit to single digits.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called UNC’s defense on ball screens “very good,” but the Tar Heels’ success extended beyond just that factor.
“We were running them off the 3-point line because we knew their guards are great and we didn’t want them controlling the game,” Zeller said.
Rivers and Curry combined to shoot 10-of-18 from 3-point territory in Chapel Hill, but combined for a 4-of-11 effort in Durham.
“Duke’s a great 3-point shooting team, so most of the time you’re not going to be able to take away the attempts, but you want to make them as hard as possible,” Marshall said. “And I think for the most part we did a great job. Reggie, P.J., Harrison, Justin Watts – they all did a tremendous job on Seth and Austin in just making them have to work very hard for points.”
Duke owned a 13-point differential in made 3-pointers in the first game (14-1), but that number was shrunk to just two points on Saturday (6-4).
Withstanding the Rally
Last season, North Carolina lead by 16 points in the first half at Cameron, but allowed Duke to charge back and claim the victory with a strong second half performance.
When Zeller scored in the post to open the second and give his team a 26-point lead on Saturday, it appeared as though Duke’s deficit would be too great to overcome. But the Blue Devils utilized a 7-0 spurt to get the lead down to 19 with 17:18 to play. That was all that was needed to invigorate the Cameron Crazies, who had witnessed a 20-point second-half comeback against N.C. State just two weeks ago.
The Tar Heels swapped baskets with Duke for the next 10 minutes or so, but a UNC scoring drought – just one field goal over six minutes – put the Blue Devils in position to cut their deficit to single digits on consecutive possessions. But Curry missed a wide-open 3-pointer and Rivers clanked the front end of a 1-and-1, and then North Carolina ended the game with a 7-0 run over the next two minutes.
“We had a little déjà vu of last year and we didn’t want that to happen again,” Marshall said.
Zeller pointed to assertiveness as being the difference in the last two games in Durham.
“Last year in the second half we let them be more aggressive than us,” Zeller said. “We let them control the game. We had moments in the second half [tonight] where we let that happen again, but for the most part, we were able to make runs back at them and control the game.”
UNC’s ability to turn away Duke’s late charge also helps to erase the final three minutes of the loss to Duke in Chapel Hill earlier this season when a double-digit lead vanished with turnovers, missed free throws and a barrage of 3-pointers. Having confidence in being able to finish games will be critical as the postseason arrives.
Marshall’s Emerging Offense
There’s a high probability that Marshall won’t be honored as a first-team All-ACC performer early next week, and the reason is the same as why Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin (21.0 ppg on 40.7 percent shooting) will get serious consideration – scoring.
Stoglin rarely meets a shot that he doesn’t like, but in a media world driven by point production, scorers have consistently overshadowed passing wizards in ACC history. The league’s single-season assist record holder – Georgia Tech’s Craig Neal – wasn’t voted to any All-ACC team in 1988 despite averaging 11.6 assists per game in conference play.
But Marshall has put a serious dent in criticism about his offensive production over the past two weeks with a 22-point effort at N.C. State and his game-high 20-point showing in the regular season finale. The sophomore point guard also delivered a clutch jumper with 4:04 to play and Barnes and Zeller both on the bench with four fouls.
“I was trying to take what the defense gave me,” Marshall said. “Against Duke, a big thing with them that we wanted to focus on was penetration and trying to make good decisions once you got in the lane, so we were able to get in there and make plays.”
Marshall finished the ACC portion of the schedule averaging 9.0 points per game. As for his assist count, the Dumfries, Va. native is now tied with N.C. State’s Chris Corchiani for second place. He needs five more assists this season to set a new ACC single-season record.
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