Print and Go Back ESPN.com: North Carolina Tar Heels [Print without images]

Saturday, March 3, 2012
Rapid Reaction: UNC 88, Duke 70

By Robbi Pickeral



DURHAM N.C. -- A quick look at sixth-ranked North Carolina's 88-70 victory over No. 3 Duke on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium:

What it means: For the Tar Heels, their 29th regular-season ACC title, the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC tournament, and some vengeance after allowing the Blue Devils to rally from a double-digit deficit in the final minutes to win Feb. 8 in Chapel Hill.

Duke, which had its seven-game winning streak snapped, lost its third ACC game at Cameron this season.

How it happened: North Carolina led 48-24 at halftime (yes, you read that correctly) as the Tar Heels dominated from the outset. With the scored tied 4-4 about a minute into the game, they shot on an 18-1 run before the Devils made another field goal, a Seth Curry 3-pointer. But it was only one of two 3s for Duke in the first half -- a sharp departure from the teams' previous meeting. Duke managed an Austin Rivers-led 8-2 mini-run to cut the deficit to 24-13. But it didn’t last, as the Devils shot 26.5 percent in the first half and the Tar Heels dominated the boards 32-15.

Duke, as was to be expected in this rivalry series, made a run early in the second half, outscoring UNC 11-4 to cut its deficit to 52-35. UNC weathered that one, but the Blue Devils put together another rally, cutting their deficit to 75-64 with about six minutes left on two Miles Plumlee free throws.

But unlike Feb. 8, when the Tar Heels squandered a 10-point lead in the final three minutes, point guard Kendall Marshall hit a jumper with about four minutes left. Freshman James Michael McAdoo then put back a Marshall miss to give the Tar Heels a 79-64 cushion with about three minutes left. And with about two minutes left, Harrison Barnes made a 3 to give the Tar Heels an 82-64 advantage.

Marshall led the Tar Heels with 20 points and 10 assists.

Mason Plumlee led Duke, which shot 58.6 percent in the second half, with 17 points.

Hubbub: The Cameron Crazies cheered for UNC forward Tyler Zeller -- the senior who missed two free throws, accidentally tipped in a Duke bucket, and was defending Rivers on the game-winning 3 during Duke’s double-digit comeback the previous time these two teams met – when the 7-footer was introduced. He fouled out with less than a minute left, but got the last laugh, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

What’s next: The ACC tournament at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Both team have Thursday byes, but top-seeded UNC will play at noon ET on Friday, and No. 2 seed Duke will play at 7.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.