Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Battle For Tobacco Road: North Carolina Thumps Duke

MARSHALL (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
#6 NORTH CAROLINA 88, #4 DUKE 70 -- At the begging of the season North Carolina was the unanimous pre-season #1.  If the Tar Heels continue to play like they did last night -- specifically, if Kendall Marshall continues to score double/doubles -- they will end the season holding the top spot and the NCAA trophy.

Marshall had 20 points and 10 assists as UNC smothered Duke to win ACC title and to avenge a heart-breaking February loss in Chapel Hill. It was Duke’s third loss in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.

In spite of foul trouble,  Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Harrison Barnes added 16 points for the Tar Heels (27-4, 14-2). They never trailed, and for the second straight year they rolled in a winner-take-all season finale with the ACC tournament's top seed on the line.

North Carolina shot 54.5 percent, built a 45-28 rebounding advantage and sent Duke to its deepest halftime deficit ever at Cameron Indoor Stadium - 24 points - while winning its seventh straight since last month's loss to the Blue Devils.

HENSON (Steeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke mounted a few runs during the second half, but unlike the February meltdown, North Carolina held steady in the second half.  The Devils opened the half with an 11-2 run and closed the gap to 11 points with just over six minutes to play, but could get no closer.

The Blue Devils shot 26.5% in the first half, 2-11 from behind the arc and went scoreless for just under six minutes after making their first two baskets.  Duke shot 57.1% in the second half, but still struggled from behind the arc (4-10), ending up 6-21 for the game.  

With four and half minutes left to play, super frosh Austin Rivers missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have cut the Tar Heels lead to single digits. UNC then went on a 9-3 run to finish off their rival.

The bottom line on these two is simple: If the Blue Devils can’t shoot a high percentage from outside the paint and beyond the arc, they simply can’t beat North Carolina.

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