CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina’s highly touted freshman class got it done against Duke for the second time this season.
It didn’t happen without a courageous challenge from the depleted Blue Devils, though.
Diamond DeShields had 18 points and Stephanie Mavunga added 12 points and 11 rebounds, leading the No. 14 Tar Heels to a 64-60 win against the No. 7 Blue Devils in the regular-season finale at Carmichael Arena.
Tricia Liston, who had been battling back problems last week but showed no ill effects, led Duke with 19 points.
North Carolina (22-8, 10-6), which won the previous meeting 89-78 on Feb. 10 in Durham, is the only team ranked outside the top two to beat Duke (25-5, 12-4).
Freshman Allisha Gray added 12 points for UNC.
“Let me thank coach (Sylvia) Hatchell,” said UNC assistant coach Andrew Calder, who filled in all season for Hatchell as she receives treatment for leukemia. “She gave them a great talk (Saturday) about protecting your home court. … I thought we played very hard. I thought we did a lot of very, very good things. We didn’t make some shots I thought we should’ve made, but it was one of our best games this year.”
Hatchell was on the court for pregame senior day ceremonies and for halftime presentations including a $1 million donation from the Kay Yow Fund to UNC’s Lineberger Cancer Center.
Duke played without regular starting guards Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones, who are injured and out for the season. The Blue Devils got 12 points and nine rebounds from Elizabeth Williams and a career-high 12 points in a career-high 29 minutes from junior Kalia Johnson.
“We started out well, and that’s fine, and sometimes I don’t even like quick starts offensively because I think it blows your focus,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It just wasn’t a full 40 minutes. There were some really good pockets of opportunity, but (right) after the half it was poor execution, poor effort. And then of course our effort became really big after that.”
UNC shot 42.4 percent to Duke’s 43.4, won the rebound battle 35-33 and committed 16 turnovers to Duke’s 15.
“I’m a scorer,” said DeShields, who has a UNC freshman record 513 points. “I’m very capable of scoring, but tonight my shot wasn’t falling (7-for-22). There are other things Diamond can do. Basically I’m just trying to showcase my talent and my basketball IQ as a whole. I can play defense, I can lock down. Liston had three 3s in the first half, and in the second half she didn’t have any.”
Duke led 15-5 early, but its last lead was 31-30 on an Oderah Chidom layup with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the first half. UNC scored the final six points, and then the first 14 of the second before Liston’s layup at 14:16 ended the spree.
“I think (I got through the pain by) just mentally focusing on each other, on my teammates and trying to do whatever I can do,” Liston said. “At the start we came out pretty strong, I think, and we were getting stops on defense, so I think it’s just a mental focus. I tried to put it in the back of my head and go out there and play.”
The Blue Devils didn’t give up, scoring the next 16 points before Washington’s layup from Gray made it 52-47 with 6:29 to go.
It was 53-52 after a Johnson three-point play at 4:17, but the Tar Heels stretched the lead back to 62-53 on a DeShields bucket with 1:09 remaining.
UNC’s next game will be against Wake Forest or Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC tournament in Greensboro at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Duke earned a bye to the quarterfinals and will face Georgia Tech, Virginia or Boston College at 6 Friday.