DURHAM — It just wasn’t enough.
A 12-game win streak, 18 second-half points from Marcus Paige, A season-high 59.4 field-goal percentage.
None of that could overcome a poor defensive effort in front of a raucous crowd hungry to avenge No. 14 North Carolina’s eight-point defeat of No. 4 Duke 16 days earlier.
This time, the Tar Heels couldn’t put together another rallying effort slide and fell victim to rushed shots and poor decision making in a 93-81 loss to Duke (23-8, 13-5 ACC) in the regular season finale.
“I think we played really hard with our heart and competed,” coach Roy Williams said. “But we didn’t do as good a job with our brain as we did with our heart, but I think we have a competitive bunch of kids there.”
Despite a 19-point deficit late in the second half, the Tar Heels (23-8, 13-5) closed the gap to single-digits after Marcus Paige’s 4-point play with 2 minutes 50 seconds remaining.
The Tar Heels had cracked their escape window. One more bucket and they could throw it open and leap out.
With fewer than three minutes to play, James Michael McAdoo stole the ball from Quinn Cook.
The window opened a few more inches. The loud crowd of Cameron Crazies temporarily dulled.