Duke will head into the ACC tournament a No. 2 seed, after coming off one of its biggest wins of the season against North Carolina Saturday night.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils were down 13 points with about 17 minutes left in the second half, and the chances for a come back looked pretty slim. No. 9 UNC had played well. But the tables suddenly turned as Duke got hot from the field.
The Blue Devils went on a 14-4 run over the next four minutes, to bring the margin to three points, 46-43.
And that made it a game. From there, the Blue Devils continued their push and eventually re-took the lead, 52-50, with 9:32 left in the game.
They went on to win 74-64. Here are five takeaways from Duke's game, and what it will have to do heading into the ACC tournament.
1. Duke is not a good offensive team when it doesn't move the ball around.
The first half was not good by any stretch of the imagination. One reason was because of the shot selection. Duke wasn't moving the ball around. On at least three occasions, Duke let the shot clock get down to only a few seconds and had to throw up a shot before the buzzer.
Many of the shots were contested. Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III had 3 points in the first half. He took only three shots.
After one half of play, Duke was down by 10 points at home, and was shooting 10 percent (1-for-10) from behind the three-point line, and 31 percent from the floor overall.
2. An 'angry' Marvin Bagley III is trouble for opponents
Duke looked like one of the most efficient offenses in the country in the second half.
Krzyzewski said at halftime, he told his team to "take the pianos off your back."
"Quit playing with all the pressure in the world, get a smile on your face, just play," he said.
"I said I’m not going to call any plays."
The ball started to move more. And Bagley went off. After an "and-1" play with 10:16 left in the game, he pumped his fist, and yelled. The momentum was swinging in Duke's favor.
"But Marvin during that stretch, just some of the best plays of any player in the country occurred during those few minutes by that kid," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He got angry, he didn’t want to lose, and the will that he showed was phenomenal.”
Bagley finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds. “I just tried to stay aggressive. I didn’t let what happened in the first half get into my head. It was just attack mode – stay aggressive, keep attacking the basket, and just play with anger."
3. When Trevon Duval is good, Duke's offense is more efficient
Duval, a freshman point guard, didn't get the start and played only seven minutes of first half.
But when came in and he made a difference. He had five of his six assists in the second half.
He also knocked down a three-pointer. Duke scored 49 points in the second half.
Duval had a rough January when he turned the ball over too many times for Duke's liking. His carelessness with the ball contributed to a few of Duke's losses.
Duval hasn't started the last two games. Instead, Krzyzewski has opted to go big, with sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier starting at forward, while Allen plays point guard. On Saturday, after re-entering the game in the second half, Duval played with more confidence than he had in previous games.
UNC's defenders couldn't stay in front of him. He split double-teams and found open teams often. Duval finished with 7 points, 6 assists and 2 steals.
"My mindset was to come in and try to affect the game, in whatever way I need to affect the game," Duval said. "Whether that's getting offensive rebounds, hooking guys up, finding open shooters, things like that." "Whenever I can play-make and create for other people, that's when I think I'm at my best."
4. Duke may be an inside team, but it's good when it's hitting three-pointers, too
The Blue Devils hit big three-pointers late in the game. Those three-pointers energized the crowd and created momentum.
Duke started the first half 1-for-10 from behind the three-point line. In the second half, the Blue Devils were 8-for-15. The three's seemed to come at crucial times during the game.
For example, Bagley's three-pointer from the top of the key that started Duke's run. And freshman guard Gary Trent Jr.'s three-pointer, with 9:32 left in the game. That three-pointer gave Duke its first lead of the game in nearly 18 minutes.
5. Duke's defense has been the key
Duke now has the 10th best defense in the country, according to kenpom.com, an advanced analytics site. Duke started the season slow on defense. Its man-to-man defense just wasn't working. Its zone, early in the season, also had holes.
But Duke has definitely turned a corner. Since the Blue Devils' game against Clemson, their primary defense has been a zone. It has slowed the pace of games, giving both teams fewer possessions. But it has worked. Duke is getting more steals and playing more as a team.
Duke has gone six consecutive games without giving up more than 64 points.
"If you take out the first three conference games, we’ve played as well as anybody on the defensive end in the conference," Krzyzewski said. "Even with those three games (at Boston College on Dec. 9, at N.C. State on Jan. 6, at UNC on Feb. 8), we’re right there. Not one, Virginia would always be one, but we’re two or three in everything. The kids have worked hard on that.”Alexander, 919-829-4822; Twitter: @jonmalexander