Duke defense freezes UNC shooters

UNC made just one 3-pointer in the 69-53 loss

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P.J. Hairston drives the ball down the court.

There are just four minutes left in the game.

Dexter Strickland, the team’s only scholarship senior, makes a tough drive down the lane. He finds a little space in the paint and elevates to try and flip one over Mason Plumlee.

Strickland got the look he wanted but like so many of the North Carolina men’s basketball team’s shots on Saturday night, it clanked off the iron. Duke went the other way and scored at the buzzer of the shot clock to stretch the lead back out to 18 points and effectively eliminate any of the dwindling hope left of a Tar Heel run.

“They made all their shots early and we didn’t make very many shots,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “One of the characteristics of this team the last three weeks is that we’ve made shots.

“Duke’s defense was stronger than our offense tonight and Duke’s offense was stronger than our defense.”

The Tar Heels connected on just 34 percent of their shots in the 69-53 loss to Duke and it was even worse from beyond the arc. Only one of North Carolina’s 14 3-point attempts went through the net for a season-low percentage of seven.

“We were just out of sync,” James Michael McAdoo said. “Not really playing our game, trying to attack, just not doing what we’ve been doing the last couple of games – just out of sync.”

McAdoo was the leading Tar Heel scorer with 15 points and he connected on a handful of mid-range jumpers. But the rest of the Tar Heels fought a losing batter against a determined Blue Devil defense.

P.J. Hairston was close behind with 14 but he needed 12 field goal attempts and five made free throws to get there. Hairston was just one-for-six from deep.

Hairston was faced with having to get around Ryan Kelly to score much of the night and Kelly’s length proved to be difficult for Hairston to combat.

“Guarding those guys, they’re such good players,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “There is so much more movement, but Ryan has been a smart defender and he talks well. We’re just a much better defensive team with him in.”

And as for Reggie Bullock, who finished the game with eight points on nine shots, the Blue Devils had an answer for his game, too.

“I thought Tyler did a great job for us tonight — the toughness and the defense,” Krzyzewski said. “We inserted him into the lineup because I think Bullock is one of the best players in the country not just the conference. He’s just a terrific basketball player.

“We needed somebody that was just going to try to make him work and hopefully make it a little bit more difficult for him and Tyler had that assignment.”

Though the loss in the Smith Center ends the regular season, there is plenty of basketball left to be played for the Tar Heels – assuming of course that those shots start to fall again soon.

“I feel like we’re going to come out more hungry,” Bullock said about moving into the postseason. “Whoever we match up against in the first game that we play in the ACC Tournament, I feel like we just need to come out. The end of the season is coming, so this will add fuel to the fire for us to come out with more motivation and more of a sense of urgency and be able to get it done.”

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