The North Carolina Tarheels came back from a double digit deficit to beat Duke on Thursday night. The 74-66 victory was fueled by a dominant second half. Although North Carolina scored 44 points in the final 20 minutes, this win was generated by the tenacious defense.
Midway through the second half, Duke (21-6) couldn’t hit a bucket. In fact, they had a hard time getting a clean shot off. The emphatic run was orchestrated by coach Roy Williams. His ability to switch defenses to multiple zones confused the high scoring Blue Devils.
Still, it was rough for North Carolina (19-7) to finally take the lead. With Duke leading 53-49, both teams were running wind sprints. Every possession was contested, lay ups were missed and dribble drives were stripped by Carolina’s quick hands.
If you think North Carolina played as hard as they have all season, you would be right. Roy Williams stated via CBSsportsline.com that “it was a bunch of guys that fought really hard and I couldn’t prouder of my team than I am right now.” Basically, this is a different North Carolina team than the one we saw to start the ACC.
Marcus Paige scored all 13 of his points in the second half. His only three keyed that final run to down the Blue Devils.
Duke had three players score double figures. Rodney Hood scored 11 of his 16 points during a hot start before two fouls sent him to the bench. Ironically, Hood’s first foul should have been Jabari Parker’s second. While Duke breathed a sigh of relief, moments later Hood was whistled for his second.
That’s when Parker displayed his offensive dominance to end the first half. The sensational freshman scored 17 points to match Quinn Cook for the team high.
Leslie McDonald came into the game averaging 10.8 points per game. His final home game against Duke was a memorable one. After four straight single digit performances, McDonald was aggressive from the start and led the Tarheels with 21 points.
If North Carolina’s season can be defined by their foul shooting, look no further than the two halves of basketball. They couldn’t hit anything from the charity stripe in the first half. However, UNC made 10 in a row to ice the game. Nate Britt was a perfect 6-6 from the line and displayed a calmness to ice the game late.
North Carolina has beaten the “Top Four” preseason teams this year.