No shooting clinic videos will be made off of this edition of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, just like none resulted from the last matchup. But the second meeting of the two teams was different in one crucial way: the Tar Heels found a way to win the game down the stretch.
The key segment in UNC’s 76-72 victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium – its first since 2012 – came with just over 4 minutes, 30 seconds left. A Joel Berry 3-pointer put the Tar Heels ahead 64-57, and that was the first of three straight successful scoring possessions. A Justin Jackson slam and Berry lay-up drew a timeout from Krzyzewski with 3:12 left and Duke down 68-59.
The Blue Devils, who all looked completely gassed, didn’t go away quietly, cutting the lead to 68-64 with less than a minute remaining after Grayson Allen slammed home a Marshall Plumlee steal. After two Theo Pinson free throws, a 3 from Allen cut it to a 70-67 advantage with 17.8 seconds left. Joel Berry made both of his free throws to extend the lead to 67-72, and Luke Kennard answered with a 3 to make it 72-70 with 8.8 ticks left. Marcus Paige calmly knocked down four more free throws around a Plumlee slam to ice the game.
That Berry 3 that started the Tar Heels’ late run broke a combined 4-of-30 slump for both teams, as miss after miss became hard on the eyes. That was hardly the only stretch of poor shooting, though – the Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize on a 40-32 halftime lead, missing their first 11 shots from the field to start the second half.
It looked like the Berry 3 that broke that drought might be the critical basket that never came for UNC in the 74-73 loss in Chapel Hill. That 3 put the Tar Heels up 45-37. But that only ignited a Duke streak of four 3-pointers in less than three minutes to tie the score at 49 and force a Roy Williams timeout with 11:43 remaining.
Out of that timeout, the Tar Heels got two quick transition buckets from Theo Pinson and Marcus Paige – the second of which was created when Grayson Allen stayed on the floor trying to sell a foul call in vain – to put UNC back up 53-49 and force a Krzyzewski timeout.
Brice Johnson led UNC with 18 points and 21 rebounds. Allen had 29 for Duke. Duke was hurt – and North Carolina helped – by early foul trouble for Brandon Ingram, who played just nine first-half minutes. He had four fouls with 10 minutes left in the game and finished with 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting.
With the win, UNC wrapped up the ACC regular season title and No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. Duke will be the No. 5 seed and will play Wednesday against the winner of the N.C. State-Wake Forest game.