It was clear from the beginning, North Carolina came out against Duke with their game faces on and a purpose. It was as though they were chomping at the bit to erase the memory of the Austin Rivers dagger from a few weeks ago. They jumped on the Blue Devils from the beginning and never looked back winning 88-70 in Durham.
The Tar Heels never trailed in this game opening a lead as large as 26 early in the second half. Duke had no answer to North Carolina in the paint. Carolina won the rebound edge by a huge 42-22 advantage. They had very little luck stopping them from the floor as well, as UNC finished at 54.5%
Meanwhile Duke struggled from the floor, shooting below 30% for most of the first half and finishing at 41.3%. The Blue Devils struggled from behind the three point line as well going 6-21 for the game. It was clear early that North Carolina was much more aggressive guarding the perimeter, pushing Duke's shooters further outside. The Blue Devils helped North Carolina as well, missing some open shots but give the Heels some credit there, after being torched by Duke in Chapel Hill.
It was a balanced attack from the Tar Heels as all five starters finished in double figures scoring. Kendall Marshall came up big with 20 points and 10 assists. Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Harrison Barnes was much more assertive shooting 14 times and scoring 16 points while John Henson played huge with 13 points and 10 rebounds. But maybe even more importantly, altering Duke's inside players all game.
Duke was led by the Plumlee brothers. Senior Miles finished with 16 points while brother Mason had 17.
But it was clear early that this night was going to belong to the Tar Heels. After a few lackluster wins, this game was clearly one of their better efforts of the season. And it gave them the ACC Regular Season Championship and a number 1 seed in next weeks ACC Tournament.
The Cameron Crazies were on Tyler Zeller from the beginning with chants referring to the ending of the prior meeting in Chapel Hill. It didn't effect the Senior who was asked if he heard the remarks. "Yeah, I heard it all..". After video of the last second win in Chapel Hill, was shown in Cameron, Kendall Marshall made it clear it offered extra incentive saying, "I told my teammates I thought that was disrespectful, and we need to go out here and prove a point". And a point they did prove.
After the bad loss to Florida State and the collapse against Duke at home, the Heels have flown under the radar as teams who can contend for a National Championship. On Saturday in Durham, North Carolina proved why they were preseason rank number one and still a major threat to cut down the nets in New Orleans.
North Carolina wil enter the ACC Tournament in Atlanta with a bye as the top seed. They move to 27-4 and look to continue the momentum and earn a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.