Punchless offense down stretch dooms UNC at Duke

By R.L. Bynum

DURHAM — There was no magic at Cameron Indoor Stadium for North Carolina this time, as the Tar Heels’ offense fell flat early in the second half and in the final minutes.

The Tar Heels missed their last five shots, went scoreless for the last 3:57 and shot 28.6% in the second half as Duke pulled out a 63–57 victory on Saturday to end a two-game skid against Carolina.

“We can’t hang our heads,” said Armando Bacot, who had another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but was held to two second-half points. “We lost two close games. They made better plays than us. In the ending of the game, we missed on a lot of plays. A few missed box-outs, turnovers, stuff like that. It just can’t happen at the end of games. We make those plays, it’s a different result.”

UNC coach Hubert Davis didn’t like his team shooting 7 of 27 from 3-point range but there were other parts of the box score that he disliked more.

“The stat that I’m looking at is that, going into the game, we had shot 150 more free throws than any other opponent in our conference,” Coach Davis said. “We shot three; zero in the second half. That is what I’m looking at.”

Carolina was 2 of 3 from the line, and the two free throws tied for the fewest since 1953 (it has happened six other times, the last coming Dec. 1, 2021, against Michigan.) The Tar Heels came into the game averaging 18.1 free throws on 24.7 attempts. 

Leaky Black had one of his best offensive games of the season in his last visit to Cameron with 13 points, three 3-pointers and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double, but missed a potentially game-changing shot with 65 seconds left.

After Carolina came up empty on four consecutive possessions with the game tied, Dereck Lively II’s put-back dunk gave Duke a 59–57 lead with 1:35 left. Black missed a corner 3-point attempt at the other end, and Jeremy Roach pushed the lead to four with 23 seconds left. UNC’s hopes ended when Pete Nance missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13 seconds left.

One year after North Carolina (15–8, 7–5 ACC) picked apart Duke with ball screens, the Blue Devils defended them effectively and ensured that didn’t happen again.

Lively used his length and athleticism to play good defense on Bacot, blocking eight shots and pulling down nine of his 14 rebounds on the defensive end.

“He is a fantastic player,” Coach Davis said of Lively. “Duke is a fantastic defensive team. They pressure you. They do a great job with their quickness moving their feet. Dereck is one of the best, if not the best even if he doesn’t block it.”

RJ Davis torched Duke in the win at Durham last season but couldn’t create offense the same way this time. He finished with 11 points on 5 of 16 shooting and foul trouble hampering him most of the game. His 3-pointer with 9:14 left gave UNC a brief one-point lead but the Heels never led again.

Duke seemed to know how to defend UNC’s set plays all night.

“They were in a drop coverage, and once you came off the ball screen, you see four Duke players in front of you,” RJ Davis said. “They were in the passing lanes.”

Caleb Love, who had 12 points and four assists, said the Tar Heels weren’t executing.

“We weren’t actually setting the screens, so there wasn’t much separation,” Love said. “When we did get the separation, we didn’t know what to do with it. I just feel like we’ve got to get better at decision-making and knowing what we have to do when we get that separation.

Without ball-screen success and with Duke (17–6, 8–4) becoming more physical yet in the second half yet committing only five fouls before the last 30 seconds was too much for the Tar Heels to overcome.

Roach (20 points), Kyle Filipowski (14 points) and Tyrese Proctor (11 points) each had seven rebounds for Duke, which won the rebounding battle 46–40.

“I feel like it’s the little things —  execution, sticking to the little details,” Love said. “Once we buy into that over the course of the rest of the season, I feel like everything will change.”

For Roach, the only Duke player who played in the Blue Devils’ two historic losses last season to UNC, the win was special.

“Definitely, it was a little bit personal for me, with what happened last year obviously,” he said. “I just wanted to come out here and do everything I can to get this win. It kind of
eases [the pain of last year] a little bit. Obviously, we’ve still got more work to do. We play them again, so we can’t just think about what we did last time. We’ve got to
go out there and do it again.”

Bacot scored six consecutive points after Lively picked up a foul and gave way to Ryan Young 7½ minutes into the game. Bacot’s layup with 11:34 left in the first half gave the Heels a 15–11 edge. Young — a former Northwestern teammate of Nance — offered little resistance compared to Lively.

“Really just trying to be able to stay down, stay strong, and don’t let him get to the positions where he wants,” Lively said of how he defended Bacot. “Try to keep him out of the paint and try to keep him out of his comfortable area.”

RJ Davis went to the bench with his second foul on a Jacob Granderson 3-point play that cut Duke’s deficit to 19–17 with 8:44 left in the first half. With Davis on the bench, Duke scored seven of the next 11 points to take its first lead on a Roach layup with 3:52 remaining.

Carolina outscored Duke 8–7 after Davis returned with 3:51 left, and the Blue Devils’ led 33–32 at halftime on the strength of 16 fast-break points compared to none for UNC.

UNC started 2 of 12 — with two Black 3-pointers — in the first 6½ minutes of the second half. Duke led 44–38 on a Mark Mitchell three-point play with 13:21 left.

A Love 3-pointer started a 7–0 UNC run to take the lead after Duke had gone up by six. A Puff Johnson steal led to an alley-oop pass from Love to Bacot for Carolina’s first fast-break points of the game. Love’s drive with 11:23 remaining put the Heels up 45–44.

The lead changed hands three times, with a Lively dunk putting Duke up 51–50 with 8:44 left.

NOTES — Carolina plays its second consecutive road game Tuesday, facing Wake Forest (15–9, 7–6) at 7 p.m. (ESPN). The Deacons snapped a four-game losing streak (losing those games by a combined margin of 15 points, with the last three by a total of six points) Saturday with an 81–64 win at Notre Dame. … It was the second straight loss that UNC shot under 35% from the floor (34.8% vs. Pittsburgh). It was UNC’s second-lowest shooting percentage of the season (33.9% in loss at Indiana). … It was the third UNC-Duke game with neither team ranked since 1960. … Bacot extended his school-record double-double total to 63, with his 14th this season. He tied Duke’s Mike Gminski for sixth in ACC history in double-doubles and passed Gminski for seventh all-time in ACC history in rebounds with 1,250 (Gminski had 1,242 from 1977–80). … Filipowski fell on his back with 4:09 left and was slow to get up but returned a minute later.  … Duke snapped a two-game losing streak against UNC but still trails in the series 143–116. The Blue Devils have a 47–40 advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium. … Black scored multiple 3-pointers for the first time in nine games. … Duke is the eighth straight opponent the Tar Heels have held to fewer than 70 points. … Jon Scheyer is the first Duke head coach to win his debut against UNC since Bill Foster’s 99–96 overtime win at the Greensboro Coliseum on Jan. 3, 1975. … Cole Anthony, whose Orlando team plays at Charlotte at 1 p.m. Sunday, was at the game.

Duke 63, UNC 57

UNC lineup combinations


ACC standings

No. 16 Miami15–524–6
No. 13 Virginia15–523–6
No. 25 Pittsburgh14–621–10
N.C. State12–822–9
North Carolina11–919–12
Wake Forest10–1018–13
Boston College9–1115–16
Virginia Tech8–1218–13
Florida State7–139–22
Georgia Tech6–1414–17
Notre Dame3–1711–20

Saturday’s games
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo via @UNC_Basketball


1 Comment

  1. If you think about it, UNC hasn’t really played well since the first half of the Kansas game. Shows what Brady Manek meant to us as well.
    They’ll have to really wake up to get an invite and I don’t see it happening this season.


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