Right from the start, the top-10 bout between No. 3 UNC (18-4, 10-1 ACC) and No. 7 Duke (16-5, 7-3 ACC) was ugly.
The pace was quick from the tip, forcing the teams to move up and down the court rapidly. This quickly caught up to the players, and by the 10-minute mark graduate center Armando Bacot was keeled over, hands on his stomach, panting with exhaustion.
This set the tone for the rest of the night in what would be a gritty battle between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils.
At the end of the day, however, it was North Carolina that pushed just a bit harder, clinching a 93-84 win off standout performances from Bacot and junior wing Harrison Ingram, who combined for 46 points. Bacot led the team in points with 25, while Ingram notched 13 rebounds and five 3-pointers.
Duke center Kyle Filipowski won the tip and immediately ran the ball down the court, beating Bacot in the paint to secure an easy layup. Not to be outdone, Bacot responded on the ensuing possession, easily sidestepping Filipowski to notch his own layup.
From there, the game was a back and forth battle. Ingram was all over the court on both the offensive and defensive boards and had already recorded five rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal by the first timeout — more than anyone else on either team.
In part because of that hustle, along with a steady performance from Bacot in the paint, UNC was quickly able to seize the lead and hold it throughout the entire half.
At the 20-minute mark, Bacot led the team in both points and rebounds with 12 and eight, respectively.
"Armando was terrific," head coach Hubert Davis said. "Not just scoring but [in] two things: his ability to play defense without fouling Filipowski, [who] is one of the better players in the country — not only can he score, he draws fouls and we were concerned about that going into the game — and, an area where Armando has improved so much is handling the double team."