When you get down to it, Duke's impressive win over UNC was as much about bigger, older players schooling younger, smaller players as anything.
In Durham, the Heels pulled out a surprise lineup, going small, and it worked reasonably well against Duke though not well enough to win. Carolina did pull together six straight wins and assured themselves a place in the NCAA field and third place in the ACC as well.
There were no surprises this time.
Duke took it to UNC from the beginning of the game, taking a 14-0 lead behind a brilliant first half by Seth Curry. Duke shot brilliantly, making 13 of its first 16, and defended very well; UNC did neither as well.
The percentages in the first half? 69.2% for Duke to 27.3% for Carolina.Â For the game? 55.1% to 33.9%. Duke was 5-15 from three point range and 10-12 from the line while UNC managed to hit just 1-14 from deep (7.1%) and nearly matched Duke from the line with 10-13 (76.9%).
Mason Plumlee shot 10-15 and Curry finished 8-13 for 43 combined points, meaning that UNC collectively only outscored the dynamic duo by a dime.
Sixteen of UNC's 27 rebounds were offensive, but they missed 41 shots. There were lots of potential offensive rebounds.
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James Michael McAdoo hit for 15 but shot just 6-14. Hairston scored 14 but managed just 25% from the floor. Marcus Paige, who has been pretty solid in UNC's winning streak, was pretty much negated here: 1-6 shooting, six assists almost wiped out by five turnovers.
Hairston, by the way, was the driving force behind UNC's offensive rebounding, grabbing five of the 16.
For Duke, this was a great game in many respects. Ryan Kelly didn't meet his recent standards, but it didn't matter: UNC put a lot of focus on him which opened things up for his classmates Curry and Plumlee and for Quinn Cook as well.
In his first two games back, Kelly's offense took center stage, but even as a decoy he's hugely effective. Carolina had no answer for Plumlee inside. They couldn't afford to leave Kelly, a lethal three point shooter, alone.
There were some minor concerns at different points, mostly relating to focus. At one point in the second half, with just over 5:00 left, UNC cut a big lead down to 14. Briefly, the ghosts woke up: with a long history of them, was UNC about to have another remarkable comeback?
Two quick layups by Cook put an end to that.
Nothing UNC did really got them back into the game, although switching to a zone briefly confused Duke. They got inside of it though and a couple of easy baskets killed that, too.
Not that Williams didn't try: one of the enduring images of this game is likely to be his coming much farther on the court than a coach usually does to urge his troops to push back.
Try as they might, and we're sure they did, this game, and this night, belonged to Duke.