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Vanquished! Duke Gigs Heels in Cameron 86-78

Duke wins a big one for the conference race and RPI points.

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North Carolina v Duke
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09: Teammates Nate Britt #0, Tony Bradley #5 and Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels try to stop Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Nine ties. Seventeen lead changes.

Sometimes the Duke-Carolina rivalry matches the hype.

It matched the hype Thursday night, in Cameron, as Duke outlasted the visiting Tar Heels 86-78, the final margin equaling the largest of the game for either team.

It was a see-saw game early, then Duke got some separation, couldn’t maintain it but made the big plays down the stretch, defensive rebounds, stops and foul shots.

“We both played lights out,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “That was a great basketball game. Talk about two teams that were deserving to win. They’re a terrific team.”

Duke’s perimeter carried them in the first half, Grayson Allen with 14 points, Luke Kennard with 10, Frank Jackson with nine. Duke didn’t get any points from Jayson Tatum or Amile Jefferson and only went to the foul line twice, a pair of makes from Kennard.

But Allen’s three right before the buzzer-his fourth of the half-put Duke up 40-39. Duke’s biggest lead of the half was four points, the Tar Heels at five.

Tatum admitted that he was nervous early on, calling it “an out of-body experience.” His teammates got on him at halftime, his coaches got on him.

“We need him,” Allen says the message was at halftime. “Plain and simple. We need him.”

“My teammates helped me in the locker room and coach challenged me to be better in the second half,” Tatum said. “Coach told me to attack the rim strong.”

Tatum responded with two foul shots and then a monster dunk over Kennedy Meeks, then a 3-pointer. Sandwiched around two 3-pointers by Kennard and a 3 by Allen, Duke had leads of 51-43, 53-46, and 56-49.

But the shots stopping falling and the Tar Heels did what they do best, Meeks converting a 3-point play on an offensive rebound, Theo Pinson scoring off the dribble, one inside basket after another. When Joel Berry II hit his second three of the half, Carolina was up 63-59., with around 12 minutes left. A Tony Bradley foul shot made it 64-59, a 21-8 Tar Heel run.

Duke was reeling. Matt Jones said Duke had to fight back on the defensive end.

“We just had to buckle down. We’ve been in that situation before and we weren’t able to get those stops. We were tonight.”

Roy Williams agreed.

“They were very impressive the second half. They are a tough matchup. They’re good defensively. They have a lot of guys who can switch and we didn’t do a very good job of moving without the ball.”

Allen hit a 3 and Tatum went coast-to-coast off a defensive rebound. It was tied at 64. And again at 66. And again at 68. And again at 70.

A Kennard two-pointer gave Duke the lead for good at 72-71, at which point the steady Tar Heels began to hurt themselves from the line. Berry missed the first end of the one-and-one and Tatum followed with another 3-pointer.

Carolina was 8-15 from the line in the second half.

Tatum’s three made it 75-71, with just over four minutes left.

Allen built the lead to six with an emphatic dunk but Justin Jackson answered with a three.

It looked for all the world like it was going to go down to the wire. It was 80-77 when Tatum

missed a 3, leading to a long rebound. But somehow Matt Jones went to the floor and dug it out.

“We needed a play,” Jones said, “I’ve been here long enough to know that a play like that can turn the game around.”

Krzyzewski agreed.

“It gave us a possession. I thought Jayson’s three would go in … but when it didn’t . . .I thought, ‘Oh, man, they’re going to get it’ but he comes up with the ball. Big play. He’s one of those guys, for four years, he’s just an unsung hero.”

Jackson was fouled and hit the first end of the bonus. Jackson was in because Allen had fouled out with 1:02 left-he had some tough calls.

“He was telling us ‘I believe in you. Get the job done.’ “Jackson said of Allen.

Duke got the job done, finishing the game on a 16-7 run.

Duke outrebounded North Carolina 31-30, a stark contrast to UNC’s 64-29 bludgeoning the last time the two teams met.

“We rebounded,” Krzyzewski said. “We had a wash on rebounds .But they only had seven offensive. The two things they do the best are transition and offensive rebounds. It’s tough to take away both. They just motor that thing down the court. We did a decent job with it. But on the rebounding, we really fought hard and that was a key to the ballgame.”


Allen led everyone with 25 points. Kennard added 20, Tatum 19—all after intermission—and Jackson 11. Tatum led everyone with nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.

Justin Jackson led the visitors with 21 points. Krzyzewski said Jackson was the best player Duke has faced this season.

Duke hit 13-27 from beyond the arc and 13-16 from the line.

Carolina was 4-12 on 3s and 10-18 from the line. Surprisingly Duke turned it over 10 times, North Carolina only five.

Duke has now won five of the last six games in the rivalry, nine of the last 12.

The win is Duke’s fourth straight and moves them to 7-4 in the ACC, 19-5 overall.

North Carolina is 9-3, 21-5.

Duke has a quick turnaround, hosting Clemson Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels can nurse their wounds until February 15, when they visit NC State.

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