It was a Tale of Two Halves as the Tar Heels ran up a 14 point halftime lead utilizing inside scoring and a tenacious defense only to see the Blue Devils (22-2, 9-1 ACC) turn the tide in the second half with increased defensive pressure while Nolan Smith and Seth Curry put on a scoring clinic.
Smith scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the second half, and Curry added 18 to his 22 as the two Duke guards scored 40 of the Blue Devils’ 50 second half points. The combo made 14 of 19 shots, shooting 74% between them after halftime.
Duke out scored North Carolina (17-6, 7-2) 50-30 in the final 20 minutes to keep hold of first place in the league while extending their NCAA-best 33 game home winning streak.
The Blue Devils hadn’t erased a halftime deficit that big to win since 1959 when Navy took a 14 point lead to the Cameron locker rooms at the break.
Tyler Zeller had 24 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, and John Henson added 14 points for North Carolina which had its five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the third straight time in college basketball's fiercest rivalry.
Kyle Singler finished with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting for Duke, but hit three important free throws in the final minute - including two with 25.2 seconds left to make it 75-70 after North Carolina had made it a one-possession game.
|Zeller and Smith|
The Blue Devils were in the unfamiliar position of being dominated on their home court when their guards got things rolling in the final seconds of the first half, with Curry's jumper at the 5-second mark starting the 18-6 run that extended into the beginning of the second period.
Missed free throws and turnovers hurt UNC. That said, better shooting from Kyle Singler could have broken the game open for Duke.
Smith finished 13 of 23 and surpassed his previous career high of 33 points set a month ago against UAB. Curry hit two free throws in the final seconds to surpass his 20-point performance Jan. 27 against Boston College.