CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org
UNC's Kendall Marshall (5) goes in for a shot as Duke's Andre Dawkins (20) and Mason Plumlee (5) defend during first-half action at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham.
DURHAM -- Duke fed the ball to senior Miles Plumlee for scores on its opening two possessions Saturday night.
It was the only time on the night that the Blue Devils could say they were on equal footing with North Carolina.
With the ACC regular season championship on the line, the Tar Heels stomped the Blue Devils from the early going, taking advantage of Dukes wayward shooting to build a 24-point halftime lead en route to a 88-70 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The win gave the sixth-ranked Tar Heels (27-4, 14-2) their 29th ACC regular season title and gave them a measure of revenge for the Blue Devils comeback win in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8. UNC led by 10 points with a little more than 2 minutes remaining before Duke rallied for an 85-84 win behind Austin Rivers 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils (26-5, 13-3) will be the No. 2 seed in next weekends ACC Tournament.
Kendall Marshall led UNC with a commanding performance, scoring 20 points while dishing out 10 assists. Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels while John Henson had 13 and 10.
UNC outrebounded Duke 45-28.
The Plumlee brothers led the way for the Blue Devils Mason finished with 17 points and four rebounds while Miles had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Blue Devils missed their next 15 shots from the field after Plumlee made those two baskets in the lane to open the game, allowing UNC to open a 22-5 edge. Duke never really warmed up from the field in the first half, only hitting 26.5 percent of its shots. Seth Curry and Austin Rivers were particularly cold, combining to make only 4 of their 15 attempts.
Right before halftime, P.J. Hairston slammed home a follow dunk and hit a pull-up jumper to send the Tar Heels to the break with a 24-point edge.
Unlike the first game in Chapel Hill, UNC never really gave Duke the chance to entertain serious thoughts about a comeback this time around, although there were times in the second half where the Cameron crowd got into it.
After UNC led 50-24, Duke showed its first signs of life in the game, scoring 10 straight points. Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton both had 3-pointers in that stretch, with Thorntons coming as the shot clock expired to pull the Blue Devils back within 16, 50-34.
Duke had rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit against N.C. State, so the Blue Devils had reason to believe a comeback was possible.
Curry trimmed the UNC lead to 71-57 with a little less than 8 minutes remaining with a 3-pointer from the corner, putting the finishing touches on a 7-0 Duke run.
The Blue Devils last, best chance for a comeback evaporated with a little more than 5 minutes remaining. With the Tar Heels lead down to 75-64, Curry missed a 3-pointer in the corner that may have led to the largest roar of the night from the Cameron faithful.
Rivers then missed the front end of a one-on-one on the Blue Devils next possession before Marshall hit a jumper from 18 feet at the end of the shot clock to put the Heels up 13.
Marshalls jumper seemed to drain the life from Duke, and UNC was not challenged in the final minutes.