Current Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:55:19 -0400
Cut off. Vanished. Evaporated into the angry, shout-filled air of the Dean Smith Center.
No. 3 Duke beat North Carolina 69-53 on Saturday — on Senior Night, on the Tar Heels’ home court. And it wasn’t pretty.
Seth Curry had 20 points for the Blue Devils. Mason Plumlee had 23 and 13 rebounds. UNC’s highest scorer was James Michael McAdoo, who had 15.
The Blue Devils dominated the opening stretches of both halves, behind Curry’s lights-out shooting in the first and Plumlee’s domination inside in the second.
“Seth’s performance in the first half, he was just the best player on the court,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And in the second half, we had the best player on the court in Mason.
“In a game like this, (Reggie) Bullock could take over and he’d be the best player on the court, or (P.J.) Hairston. But it just turned out that in those two halves, those two kids were the difference makers.”
The blowout wasn’t easy to see coming. The Tar Heels had played Duke close in their first matchup, and that was on the road at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They had won six straight games with their new-look lineup. They were on the verge of a top-25 ranking, and they were hungry.
But Duke was the team that feasted, while North Carolina played its worst game in weeks.
Curry led Duke to a 14-0 lead out of the gate, and his shooting helped the Blue Devils push the lead to as much as 20. He scored 18 points in the half on eight-of-10 shooting, and even made a shot falling down, almost sitting on the Smith Center floor. He just couldn’t miss.
“He toyed with us,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Got any shot he wanted.”
And Bullock, who was guarding Curry for most of the half, said he did a terrible job defensively.
Duke led 42-24 at the break — and then it was Plumlee’s turn to take over.
Plumlee scored Duke’s first four baskets of the second half, all in the paint, as the Blue Devils pushed their lead to 22 and kept the Tar Heels from getting any momentum back. He scored over UNC’s big men and its guards — a couple of his early baskets came when a guard switched onto him after a screen — and had 15 of his 23 points in the second half.
“That was a man’s half,” Krzyzewski said.
As Plumlee bodied his way to bucket after bucket down low, the closest North Carolina ever got to the Blue Devils was within 14 with five minutes left. But Duke scored on its next two possessions, quashing any lingering chance of a UNC comeback.
With the regular season over and the ACC and NCAA tournaments looming, the Tar Heels didn’t want to be searching for answers.
But they are.
After all, where did the team that looked like a contender with P.J. Hairston in the starting five go on Saturday night? What happened to that momentum UNC built over the last few weeks?
“Man, I don’t know, dude,” a frustrated McAdoo said.