Mike Dunleavy led the top-ranked Devils (19-1, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 23 points while Jason Williams added 18 as Duke won at the Dean Dome for the fourth consecutive time.
“It’s a matter of how you turn around. When you get knocked down it’s a matter of whether you get back up or not,” said a despondent but rational Kris Lang. “I’m not gonna stop getting back up. I’m a fighter and a competitor and I’m not going to quit. You’ll see me coming back tomorrow. I didn’t have a great game but I’m looking forward to a great game on Saturday.”
Leading 48-35 at the half, the Blue Devils opened the second period with an impressive 10-2 run that consisted of a pair of slams, a short jumper, a 3 and an easy layup forcing UNC coach Matt Doherty to call a timeout.
“That’s Duke. They were a little sloppy the first half and we knew they would come at us in the second half,” said freshman guard Melvin Scott, who finished with two points in 15 minutes. “We just wanted to take care of the ball and make good plays but they are Duke and they made great plays and took care of their ball, defended us and executed well and that was the outcome of the game.”
The teams then essentially traded baskets before Duke went on a final, game-sealing 21-4 run to open a 85-48 lead with 4:09 left in the game, and allow its starters to exit the floor for good. During the run, UNC went without a field goal for more than seven minutes, adding to its own misery.
“In the second half, our defense was great,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “It wasn’t good -- it was great. We had very active hands. There weren’t the open looks. We gave a few open looks in the first half. We gave three of them and all three were knocked down for 3s (in the first half).”
Despite the struggles to score, the Heels still managed to shoot 50 percent from the field, but took just 44 shots, a result of committing a whopping 25 turnovers.
“We just didn’t do a good job of executing,” said Brian Morrison. “They were very active but we just didn’t make good enough cuts and passes.”
On the other end of the floor UNC’s tired defense was no better than it’s stagnate offense as the Devils seemingly scored at will.
Dunleavy hit a fadeaway jumper. Casey Sanders rattled home a thunderous dunk. Chris Duhon nailed a 3-pointer. Dahntay Jones tapped in a missed shot. Carlos Boozer had an easy put back. Williams drilled a long 3. Dunleavy had a pair of fast-break layups and Duhon sunk a 3-pointer as he fell to the floor in front of his team’s bench.
“Our two guards had 14 assists and only one turnover and as many possessions as we have, that’s a good stat,” Krzyzewski said.
Morrison led the Tar Heels (6-12, 2-6) as the only player in double figures with 12 points. Morrison, who played just two minutes during Sunday’s win at Clemson but was in for 27 tonight, also led UNC with four assists.
“I thought Brian really played well,” Doherty said. “Brian has the legs that can beat people off the dribble. We were trying to spread the floor and drive it. Brian did a good job of penetrating. I thought he made some pretty good decisions for the most part.”
Seniors Lang and Jason Capel scored eight points each and combined for nine turnovers and zero assists.
Duhon added 15 points for the Devils while Boozer tallied 14 and Jones chipped in 13.
UNC has now lost seven of its past eight games and is just 4-7 at home.
“It is difficult but we have to stay together and work through this,” junior forward Will Johnson said. “We have to work to keep improving and not worry about those things.”
Carolina stayed close in the first half behind intense defense and cold early shooting from the Blue Devils. The Heels were also limiting the Duke’s second-chance points, allowing them just one offensive board.
After UNC cut Duke’s lead to 21-17 on a 3-pointer by Jonathan Holmes with 9:09 left in the half, the Devils went on a quick spurt to open a 29-19 advantage behind a pair of 3s and a fast-break jam by Dunleavy after a turnover by Lang.
But the Heels didn’t wilt. A Lang jam off a feed from Jawad Williams, a Morrison layup followed by a Williams layup cut the margin to 32-25 with 3:39 left in the half.
The Blue Devils, however, quickly went on a 16-10 run to close out the half and lead 48-35.
“The toughest thing now is we have to move on,” Doherty said. “We have a quick turnaround, it is a tough schedule and we have a game at one o’clock on Saturday (at Georgia Tech). We really have to put this game behind us and move on as quickly as possible.”
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.