Heels come up short at Duke, 70-65

McCants' final drive

DURHAM, N.C. – Not even a courtside presence by the country's foremost real estate magnate could detract from the action on the floor Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As is customary, No. 14 North Carolina and No. 3 Duke added another enthralling chapter in college basketball's hottest rivalry that ended in a 70-65 Blue Devils' triumph.

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    Certainly, Donald Trump and his entourage felt they got their money's worth when they returned to New York on his private jet after the game.

    UNC trailed by three with 14 seconds left when Rashad McCants drove the right sideline looking for a game-tying opportunity. But the ball slipped out of his hands and right into arms of J.J. Redick, who called a timeout while sliding across the lane on his back.

    "It was a one-on-two fast break and I had J.J. on my side," McCants said. "I think they knew what I was going to do. I think that I got fouled, but I don't think the ref was in position to make the call."

    Although the final sequence took place at the feet of an official, and despite the Tar Heels desperately pleading for a traveling call, Duke took over possession with 4.4 seconds left to play. David Noel then fouled Redick on the Blue Devils' subsequent inbounds pass, and the 96-percent free throw shooter calmly nailed both attempts from the charity stripe to clinch the victory for the Blue Devils.

    "It would have been nice if Rashad could have handled the ball a little better and passed out to somebody else since he had two people on him," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "But I like their defensive intensity and their relentlessness."

    "I knew if Rashad had got a clean look at it, that shot was going down," said Sean May, who registered his twelfth double-double of the year with 14 points and 15 rebounds. "But he just lost the ball."

    Luol Deng, demonstrating NBA-like moves, scored a career-high 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting to lead Duke (25-4, 13-3 ACC), while McCants tallied a team-high 20 points for the Tar Heels (18-9, 8-8). Deng and his forearm were virtually unstoppable, as he cut up the Carolina defense from the inside and out.

    "Deng was extremely motivated and played very well," Williams said. "He's one of the best players in the country, not just the best rookie."

    Noel scored 12 points, his highest scoring output in 13 games, and added eight rebounds. As a team, UNC out-rebounded Duke, 43-31, including a 20-9 advantage on the offensive boards. Yet, the Blue Devils outscored the Tar Heels in the paint, 44-38.

    "One of our emphases before the game was to rebound, rebound, rebound," Noel said. "We didn't think it was going to be that easy offensively or defensively, but we came in trying to get a lot of second shots."

    But it was missed opportunities that spelled doom for UNC.

    "I just missed too many shots – from close range, threes went in and out – it just wasn't my day," McCants said. "A couple of more buckets…the game just didn't go our way."

    The Tar Heels held Redick to just 1-of-4 from three-point range; however the one he did hit may have marked the turning point in the game. With 10:45 left to play and with Duke clinging to a 47-46 lead, May blocked a shot by Shelden Williams that was picked up by Redick who nailed the three. Redick finished with 15 points on 3-of-9 shooting; 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

    On Carolina's next possession, Noel rebounded a missed shot by McCants and then missed what appeared to be an easy tip-in opportunity. However, Noel converted a stick back the next time down, but Deng immediately answered on the other end.

    "We blocked a shot and it bounced out to J.J. for a three," Williams said. "Another time we blocked a shot and Luol got the rebound and laid it in. For us to be effective, we can't have those breakdowns."

    "If Rashad gets one of his open looks to fall, we win this game; if Jawad [Williams] gets one of his open looks to fall, we win this game," May added.

    Raymond Felton, who suffered a hip-pointer in the first half, was slowed the rest of the way. And as would be expected by an ACC Player of the Year candidate, Duhon took full advantage penetrating the middle of the Carolina defense for 12 points and four assists.

    Williams said that while he expected Felton to be sore for a few days, he didn't think the injury was too serious.

    With the loss, Carolina finished all alone in fifth-place and will meet either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest -- to be determined by a coin flip Sunday night -- in the upcoming ACC Tournament in Greensboro Friday at 2:30 p.m.

    If the Tar Heels can advance past the Jackets or Deacons to the semi-final round, then they would almost certainly face Duke again next Saturday.

    "As long as we go out there and compete the way we did tonight, anything is possible," Jawad Williams said considering a possible rematch with the Blue Devils. "But we've just got to go out there and focus on our next game."

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