In the rivalry matchup to end the season, the North Carolina men's basketball team (16-9, 10-6 ACC) dominated Duke (11-11, 9-9 ACC) from start to finish in a 91-73 win. Led by three different players scoring 18 points apiece, the Tar Heels played one of their most complete games of the season in their last game of the year in the Dean E. Smith Center.
North Carolina got out to an excellent start by quickly by hitting five of its first seven shots to get out to an 11-2 lead. Struggling to defend UNC's bigs, Duke center Mark Williams and forward Matthew Hurt each picked up a quick foul, forcing head coach Mike Krzyzewski to put in Patrick Tape. Nothing could slow down the Tar Heels, though, as players made jumper after jumper, including a one-legged, fade-away 3-pointer from senior forward Garrison Brooks to balloon the lead to 24-6.
By the end of the first half, the Blue Devils managed to cut the lead down to 16, but they failed to establish any sort of defensive rhythm, allowing North Carolina to shoot 55.2 percent from the floor and 62.5 percent from deep.
Duke started to find its offensive rhythm in the second half, shooting 4-6 to start, while UNC's red hot shooting cooled slightly, but the Tar Heels' size and speed was still too much to overcome. The Blue Devils tried to break out a full-court press and trapping defense, but North Carolina continued to draw fouls against Duke's undersized front court, keeping the lead firmly in hand.
It was only a matter of time, as UNC kept passing out of traps for essentially the last 10 minutes of the game to cruise to a final score of 91-73.
Who stood out?
Four different players scored in double figures for the Tar Heels — sophomore big Armando Bacot and first-year guards Kerwin Walton and Caleb Love all scored 18 points — along with 14 points from Brooks, with all four players shooting 50 percent or better from the floor. And on UNC's last game of the regular season, 11 different players scored.
When was it decided?
From the jump, North Carolina established itself as the better team, scoring all over the court and looking more physically dominant on both sides of the floor. Once the Tar Heels established a double-digit lead over their rivals, they never relinquished it. Even as UNC's play became sloppy against an increasingly-frantic Duke defense, its comfortable lead never went away.
Why does it matter?
After the embarrassing loss to Syracuse on Monday, North Carolina needed to cement its spot in the NCAA Tournament with a dominant win over its rival. That's exactly what the Tar Heels delivered on Saturday, thrashing their rival on senior night in front a small crowd of 3,200 fans, mostly made of UNC seniors. In the last performance of the year in the Smith Center, North Carolina sent its fans home with a victory, bringing to a close one of the strangest regular seasons in college basketball history.
When do they play next?
UNC will start its postseason in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. on March 10 as the sixth seed. The Tar Heels will start in the second round, playing their first game on Wednesday, March 10.
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