Duke North Carolina

February 9, 2012 by staff 

Duke North Carolina, In a rivalry filled with all-time great games, Duke and North Carolina added another classic chapter Wednesday night.

No. 5 North Carolina (20-4, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and No. 10 Duke (20-4, 7-2) put on an offensive showcase early, and while the Tar Heels pulled away midway through the second half, the Blue Devils staged a furious comeback in the final minutes. After Duke came back from 10 points down with 2 minutes 18 seconds to play, the freshman Austin Rivers hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to give the Blue Devils an 85-84 win in a thriller.

Duke’s victory comes on a night when Florida State shockingly dropped a game to Boston College, meaning the Blue Devils now sit atop the A.C.C. standings, tied with North Carolina and the Seminoles.

The last time Duke played an elite team on the road, on Nov. 29 against Ohio State, the Blue Devils started the game cold from the field and found themselves chasing a deficit for the entirety of the game. Facing a near must-win situation after a loss last weekend, Duke scored early and often in Chapel Hill, behind the hot shooting of its myriad perimeter players. Austin Rivers scored eight of the Blue Devils first 10 points, including two deep 3-pointers, to give Duke an early advantage it held onto throughout the first half.

The Tar Heels were able to play their favored frenetic style of basketball which enabled the big men Tyler Zeller and John Henson to have easy looks at the bucket, the Blue Devils spoiled Coach Roy Williams’s game plan by converting from long-range. As a team, Duke hit seven 3-pointers in the first half alone.

North Carolina kept it close with the help of Tyler Zeller, who punished Duke on the fast break and ended the first period with 19 points. Harrison Barnes, who went without a field goal in the first half, carried the Tar Heels in the second period. Taking advantage of defensive mismatches, Barnes used his height to shoot over the Blue Devils, and scored 19 of his 25 points in the final 19 minutes of the game.

As North Carolina surged ahead, starting the second half on a 14-4 run to the delight of the raucous crowd at the Dean Smith Center, and Duke’s shooters failed to keep up their incredible outside scoring pace, the strengths and limitations of each squad became evident.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski will be pleased with the way his Blue Devils operated the offense in the first half, efficiently running an up-tempo style and stretching the floor with wing-to-wing ball movement to grant gifted scorers like Austin Rivers and Andre Dawkins space to shoot. Without a true point guard to penetrate the Tar Heels’ defense, Duke was still able to create open looks and punished North Carolina by shooting a high percentage.

When those same shots weren’t falling, however, the Blue Devils struggled. After losing Kyrie Irving to the N.B.A. draft and Nolan Smith to graduation, Duke is left with only one guard who can penetrate any defense and create his own shots – the aforementioned Rivers. The Blue Devils can sometimes rely on forwards Mason and Miles Plumlee to provide additional scoring from the inside, but when Duke faces a team with an elite front line like North Carolina or Ohio State, the fortunes of the Blue Devils usually rely upon whether or not the freshman Rivers can carry the team. The freshman Quinn Cook will develop into a dangerous point guard in the future, but Cook needs time to mature before he can become a reliable option. When the Blue Devils shots are falling, Duke is a very difficult team to beat – but when the 3-pointers aren’t falling, the Blue Devils are vulnerable.

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