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Heels Thump Duke In Cameron

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by Jim Sumner
Mike Krzyzewski used the "overwhelmed" following North Carolina's 88-70 win over Duke Saturday night. Used it several times, in fact. Overwhelmed by Game Day, overwhelmed by Senior Day. But mostly overwhelmed by a brutally efficient Tar Heels team that seized control early in the game and withstood a spirited Duke comeback in the second half.

There was a five-minute stretch in the first half that almost defies description. Duke trailed 8-4, when Austin Rivers went to the line for two foul shots. He made the first and missed the second. But Miles Plumlee-Duke's only senior-grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Rivers for the tying 3-pointer.

It missed. Duke was never that close again. Lay-ups, jumpers, foul shots and rebounds cascaded into a Duke disaster. Five minutes into the game it was 18-5. The Tar Heels made eight of their first ten field goal attempts and they rebounded the two they missed. They didn't have an empty possession until 5:27 into the game, by which point Duke was in a double-digit hole that it was never able to dig out of.

The lead reached 22-5, a 14-0 run. Duke closed to 11 four times but every promising rally seemed to end with someone in baby blue converting an offensive rebound. Even Reggie Bullock, a spot-up shooting guard got into the act, converting follow shots for 24-8 and 30-17.

Duke was actually getting decent shots early but just kept shooting blanks. Krzyzewski said that the misses negatively impacted his team's performance in other areas, especially defense.

Carolina closed the half on an 18-5 run. It was 48-24 after 20 minutes.

It was a total first-half collapse for Duke. The Blue Devils shot 9-for-34, 2-11 from 3-point range, 4-9 from the line. Any plausible scenario for a Duke win starts with not shooting 18 percent on 3s. "Shooting 3s is what we do," Krzyzewski said. "If we're not hitting them, we've got a better chance to lose."

But as bad as the shooting was in Duke's deficit, it pales beside the poor rebounding. North Carolina had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, Duke nine defensive rebounds. In other words, North Carolina was more likely to rebound its own misses than was Duke.

Miles Plumlee grabbed five boards in the first half but the rest of the team barely competed. Try 32-14 North Carolina.

Ryan Kelly, who ended the game with a single rebound in 28 minutes, called his effort "awful" and it's hard to come up with a counter-argument.

Half-time was about intangibles more than Xs and Os. "We had to fight. There's no game plan you can make out for what we didn't do in the first half," Miles Plumlee said. "They've got to feel you on defense, we've got to execute together on offense."

Duke began to attack inside. John Henson is a formidable inside presence, likely the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year. But Duke enabled him in the first half, letting him defend in space, rarely attacking with any conviction.

Duke went after Henson in the second half. "Everybody needed to attack their man," Miles said. "It happened to be us bigs sometimes. I deferred a little bit [early]. We kind of looked to guys to drive and we needed to score together. We didn't get too many looks together the first half."

Miles Plumlee and Kelly scored inside early and Seth Curry bombed a 3 to make it 50-31. Tyler Thornton followed with another 3, capping a 10-0 Duke run.

The game actually seemed winnable for Duke for a few minutes. With the Plumlees fighting Tyler Zeller and Henson to a standstill inside and Austin Rivers and Seth Curry generating some offense, Duke cut the lead to 75-64, with six minutes left and Harrison Barnes and Zeller riding the pine with four fouls each. The Blue Devil faithful were hoping for another miracle comeback.

But Curry had a good look at the 3 but missed. Duke got another stop but Rivers missed the first end of the bonus. Score either of those possessions and it gets real interesting. Score both and the roof comes off.

But come up empty and Marshall hit a 3 and the rally dies.

Coming back from a deficit that large has almost no margin for error. Duke got the points it needed but not the stops. All five Tar Heel starters scored in double figures, with Kendall Marshall the ring master.

Mike Krzyzewski knows something about good point guards. He called Marshall "poised, confident, the ultimate point guard." Marshall added 10 more assists to his ACC-leading 9.3 per game. He also added a game-high 20 points, further eroding his reputation as a pass-only point.

Duke scored 46 points after intermission, matched Carolina on the boards in the second half and ended with only six turnovers. So, there is that. Miles Plumlee went out on his shield, 16 points and 11 rebounds, while brother Mason scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. In fact, the brothers Plumlee outscored Zeller and Henson 33-32.

But Carolina held Austin Rivers to a tough 15 points and the Blue Devils ended 6-21 on 3s. Carolina shot 54.5 percent from the field and outrebounded Duke 45-28. Kelly and Andre Dawkins combined for 1-9 shooting, 0-6 on 3s.

Krzyzewski called Carolina's performance "beautiful basketball, very efficient. They got us down and we got us down. We've got to be tougher than that."

Rivers says Duke will learn from the defeat. "It's a terrible feeling. We get tomorrow off and then we get back to practice. I really believe we have the guys to make a run. But we have to come out fighting."

Miles Plumlee sees his college career coming to an end and he wants to see an attitude adjustment. "When we show up, I believe this team is as good as anyone in the country. We're a younger team and throughout the year, we've been a little immature. We always want to see how little we can do to win. We need to fight like we did at times tonight for the rest of the season."


Miles Plumlee has grabbed 83 rebounds in Duke's last seven games.

The loss drops Duke to 13-3 in the ACC for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in the last five seasons. Duke went 11-5 in 2009.
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