Duke’s “Big Three” – Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler – each drained a 3-pointer in the opening 110 seconds of play to build an early 9-3 lead that foretold the night ahead for North Carolina (16-15, 5-11 ACC). The Blue Devils’ margin eventually grew to 30 points late in the first half before Marcus Ginyard connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut UNC’s deficit to 53-26 heading to the locker room.
That lead increased to 36 points at 73-37..
Singler led Duke (26-5, 13-3 ACC) with 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Scheyer contributed 20 points and seven assists and Smith added 20 points and five assists.
John Henson (14) and Deon Thompson (11) were the only Tar Heels to break into double figures.
Duke shot 45.6 percent from the field on 26-of-57 (8-of-21 3pt) shooting, while holding UNC to 33.3 percent (16-of-48). The Blue Devils also outrebounded the Tar Heels, 37-28, including a 14-11 edge on the offensive glass.
North Carolina’s 50 points set a new record for the fewest points scored by a Roy Williams-coached Tar Heel team, topping the 54 points UNC managed in the first loss to Duke this season on Feb. 10.
The 32-point margin of victory marked the second-largest win for Duke over North Carolina, trailing only the 104-69 performance in Chapel Hill on Feb. 29, 1964.
INSIDE THE GAME
A Total Lack of Composure and the Missing Element of Intensity
The night started well for North Carolina with a Marcus Ginyard steal on Duke’s opening possession, but that ultimately was the high point for the Tar Heels. UNC’s hopes for a dramatic upset quickly took a sharp detour south.
North Carolina’s opening 10 possessions provided a glimpse into the struggles of the season, whether it was Larry Drew losing control of the ball while attempting to penetrate, John Henson lofting an out-of-control prayer underneath the basket or Dexter Strickland forcing a bad pass in transition that resulted in a turnover.
Duke, on the other hand, was brutally aggressive on Senior Night, sensing blood following a four-game home losing streak to the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils connected on five of their first nine 3-pointers in darting out to a 31-9 less than 11 minutes into play.
“We didn’t have any intensity or effort,” sophomore point guard Larry Drew said. “We didn’t focus from the get-go. We just got beat tonight in every facet of the game… It’s as embarrassing as you can imagine.”
North Carolina’s starters combined for a 6-of-19 shooting display in the opening 20 minutes, which is bad enough, but the more telling first-half statistic is that first five failed to register an assist while committing three turnovers.
The Tar Heels ultimately coughed up 15 turnovers – slightly below their season average of 15.6 – but Duke capitalized by scoring 27 points off those errors.
It’s understandable for North Carolina to be rattled in the cauldron that Cameron delivers, but how can a team fail to bring the required energy level in college basketball’s greatest rivalry?
“In this situation, you’d think that would be impossible,” Ginyard said. “But you can’t make much of an argument the other way.”
A Penetrating Offense
In the first meeting between these two programs, North Carolina kept it close by making interior baskets tough to come by. Ed Davis and Henson combined for 10 of UNC’s 12 blocks, holding the Blue Devils to 25.5 percent shooting (13-of-51) inside the arc.
With Ed Davis seated on the bench Saturday night with a wrist injury, the Tar Heels were unable to replicate that defensive presence in the post, failing to block a shot until the game was out of reach in the second half. Duke’s perimeter players utilized screen curls and quick first steps to consistently slash into the paint, which lead to 12 assists, seven 3-pointers and 15 free throw attempts in the first half alone.
“It was definitely a big-time plus for them to be able to get into the lane and draw two defenders and kick out for 3s or grab offensive rebounds and kick out for 3s,” Ginyard said. “We talked about playing this game by 2s… It’s just tough to keep up with a team when they’re hitting 3s like that.”
ACC Tournament Seed Finalized
North Carolina’s loss paired with Virginia Tech’s victory over Georgia Tech earlier on Saturday solidified the 7-10 matchup in next Thursday’s opening round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. No. 10 seed UNC will face the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets at 7 p.m. with the winner schedule to play No. 2 seed Maryland on Friday at 7 p.m.
With the seeding intrigue out of the way, the most pressing question now is how the Tar Heels will regroup without suffering from the lingering emotional damage of this rivalry roasting.
“The game itself should prevent it,” Graves said. “Taking a loss like that should prevent us from having a lapse. We should just come out and be ready to [smack] somebody.”