UNC 74, Duke 66: Postgame thoughts

Posted on February 21, 2014 

A wild celebration followed North Carolina’s 74-66 victory against Duke -- the Tar Heels’ seventh consecutive victory after a 1-4 start in the ACC.

ROBERT WILLETT -- RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

— Loud, wild night last night in the Smith Center, where North Carolina trailed early, and then by double-digits in the second half, before rallying for a 74-66 victory against No. 5 Duke. The students rushed the court. They played “Jump Around,” and everyone did. It looked like a mosh pit.

Some stories:

--From Chip Alexander, a veteran ACC scribe who’s no stranger to these kinds of games, the story of the game.

--From columnist Luke DeCock, a piece on the a memorable atmosphere, one that James Michael McAdoo described as “ballistic.”

--From Laura Keeley, a story about Duke’s lifelessness in the second half.

--And, from me, a story about Leslie McDonald, who provided people with a new way to remember him.

And some day after thoughts …

THREE THINGS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE TAR HEELS’ VICTORY:

1. UNC’s turnaround is complete.

The Tar Heels were in the midst of a five-game winning streak when they were originally scheduled to play against Duke last week. There were questions, though, about the quality of that winning streak, given that those victories came against teams in the bottom half of the ACC standings. There can be no question now, though: UNC has completely reversed course after losing four of its first five conference games. Since then, the Tar Heels have won seven consecutive games, none more impressive than the past three. In the past week, UNC has beaten a good Pittsburgh team, a desperate Florida State team and, now, Duke.

2. The Tar Heels are becoming more balanced.

UNC coach Roy Williams has talked a lot about urgency this season, and you’ve heard him say again and again that the Tar Heels have learned how to play with urgency during this winning streak. One of Williams’ other talking points is balance. He has bemoaned UNC’s lack of balance at times, and its reliance on Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo to be the primary scorers. The Tar Heels have become more balanced in their past two games, and McAdoo and Paige have received a lot of help. Kennedy Meeks, the freshman from Charlotte, provided that on Monday night at Florida State, where he scored a season-high 23 points. Against Duke, it was Leslie McDonald, the senior guard. He finished with a team-high 21 points.

3. UNC’s defense is legit.

The Tar Heels aren’t a great offensive team, and sometimes they’re not even a good offensive team. But this might be the best defensive team UNC has had in a while. After Thursday night, UNC is holding opponents to 39.8 percent shooting from the field, and 30.6 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line. On paper, UNC’s 3-point defense looked good entering Thursday night. But there was a thought that maybe it looked that good because the Tar Heels hadn’t played a team that could shoot as well as Duke. That’s probably true but UNC proved its defensive worthiness against the Blue Devils, who made just five of their 22 3-point attempts. UNC never allowed Duke to find its rhythm on the outside, and that was probably the most important factor in the Tar Heels’ victory.

FOUR FACTORS

UNC shot slightly better from the field, but the Tar Heels held huge advantages in offensive rebounding and in free throw attempts. And after missing seven of their first eight free throw attempts, the Tar Heels missed just four more the rest of the game.

UP NEXT

Quick turnaround. The Tar Heels conclude this four-games-in-eight-days stretch with a home game against Wake Forest at noon on Saturday.

And, oh yes … some video:

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