North Carolina and Duke squared off in Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Heels gave the Blue Devils a game but in the end couldn’t pull out the victory after leading for the first 26 minutes of the game.
Roy Williams changed his starting lineup inserting P.J. Hairston for Desmond Hubert going with a small lineup to start the game for the first time this season.
First half notes: UNC forced three early Duke turnovers to take a 5-0 lead. The Heels were able to get out in transition on found more room to operate in the half court with Hairston on the floor. The sense of urgency and passionate defensive play was at a season high to begin the game.
The momentum began to swing back to Duke as they ran off consecutive baskets when the Heels went to their bench and brought in Brice Johnson going away from their small lineup. With the flow of the offense obviously effected Roy adjusted and went back to a small lineup that yielded immediate results as UNC extended their lead to ten with six minutes to go in the half. Duke stayed tough and capitalized on some point blank misses by Carolina. At the half UNC led Duke 33-29.
UNC did a nice job defending Seth Curry who didn’t score until the five minute mark in the half and finished with just two points in the half. Quin Cook was the only player to score in double digits for either team with 10 first half points. The rebounding battle was nearly even with Duke holding a slight edge 19-18. Carolina held Duke to just one three pointer and an overall shooting percentage of just 38.7%.
Second half notes: Mason Plumlee picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half. James Michael McAdoo continued to attack and took Plumlee out of the game by attacking the basket hard and forcing Coach K to take him out of the game. Reggie Bullock committed two fouls inside of 15 seconds and suddenly he had three fouls. After taking Plumlee out of the game Duke went on a 8-2 run to cut the lead to just three four minutes into the half.
Duke took their first lead of the night with 14 minutes to go off a Seth Curry three. After a couple of free throws put Carolina back in front, UNC fell into bad habits by taking two bad three pointers early in the shot clock allow Duke to get out in transition and score five quick points to take a four point lead.
Duke took control of the momentum when Carolina failed to attack the basket going away from what was so effective in the first half. It’s important to note that for the majority of Duke’s run, both Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston were on the bench. When they reentered the game UNC quickly cut the lead to three and drew a fourth foul on Plumlee. Immediately after Plumlee picked up his fourth, Cook committed his fourth with six minutes remaining.
McAdoo blew a couple of great opportunities to cut into the Duke lead missing four consecutive free throws down the stretch. As a team the Heels missed six free throws in a three minute span down the stretch. Once Duke took the lead they didn’t look back.
Notable Stats: 13-23 for 56.5% from the FT line tells the entire story in a five point loss, especially with so many FTs missed down the stretch. By comparison Duke went 17-20 from the line. The Tar Heels registered just eight assists on their 25 field goals, PG Marcus Paige finished with just one assist and struggled all night going 2-10 from the field. McAdoo failed to break double digits in scoring for the second straight game finishing with just nine points.
Key Takeaways: As if we didn’t already know this but starting P.J. Hairston is the right move going forward whether he’s replacing Hubert or Strickland he needs big time minutes. Hairston proved that he can be counted on to stretch the defense even when he’s not hitting his outside shot and can defend bigger players inside the paint when called upon.
The Tar Heels once again failed to play a complete 40 minute game despite a terrific effort they went through a couple of stretches where they went away from what was successful and made too many mental mistakes.
Up Next: UNC returns home to face Virginia on Saturday at 12pm.