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Duke beats UNC women’s basketball by second-largest margin in history of the rivalry

UNC versus Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Monday, February 6, 2012.

DURHAM — Speed. It’s long been at the heart of Sylvia Hatchell’s women’s basketball teams.

Talk to any North Carolina player, and they’ll likely speak glowingly of the “Carolina Fast” label that has become so intertwined with the program.

Early on in Monday’s game, though, No. 5 Duke matched No. 22 UNC’s breakneck agility step for step as it defended its home court.

And as the 96-56 final score would indicate, the Tar Heels could only keep running with the Blue Devils for so long.

“We weren’t scoring, and we lost a lot of energy,” Hatchell said. “Because a lot of times we get our energy for our defense off of our offense.”

Both teams started the night with an aggressive, almost frantic, energy — one that fueled more turnovers than points.

Duke and the Tar Heels combined for 11 possessions before UNC’s Tierra Ruffin-Pratt could crack the scoring column with a jumper.

As UNC (17-6, 7-3 ACC) continued to tack on points in an 8-4 run, it seemed as though the Tar Heels might be able to keep pace with Duke.

But a couple of key adjustments allowed Duke (19-3, 10-0 ACC) to charge ahead.

In a move that would pay almost immediate dividends, Duke coach Joanne McCallie subbed guard Tricia Liston into the game at the 13:31 mark.

Liston drained a 3-pointer two minutes later to give Duke a 12-10 advantage, and the sophomore’s 16 first-half points helped ensure that the Blue Devils would never trail again.

“I think it was just one of those games when it does help coming off the bench,” Liston said, “seeing what they’re doing on the court … and what I could do better and what I can bring to the game that will help us.”

Despite the offensive jolt Liston offered, the bigger change may have come on the defensive side of the ball.

After the Blue Devils struggled out of the gates, McCallie said she wanted to calm her team down by switching to a zone defense.

The result was both profitable for Duke and stifling for the Tar Heels.

“ I think they changed defenses, and they really threw a lot of different things at us,” said Tar Heel center Chay Shegog, who led the team with 19 points.

Duke freshman Elizabeth Williams, Shegog’s counterpart on the court, was a major cog of the team’s defensive efforts, tallying six blocks. Her 85 blocks on the season is an ACC single-season freshman record.

Combined with an unsightly 28 percent shooting mark, 12 Tar Heel turnovers in the first half gave the Blue Devils the added ammunition they needed to kill any chance at a UNC victory.

“We just didn’t execute well,” Shegog said.

“I think that’s the main thing. Then they just took off. I mean, great teams do that.”

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