Last night’s game featuring No. 9 Duke and No. 5 North Carolina certainly lived up to the intense rivalry. The Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina was loud and rocking before the opening tip. The crowd was quickly silenced after the Blue Devils 5-0 lead 57 seconds into the game. North Carolina was able to stick right with Duke the whole first half. The Tar Heels took their first lead of the game with 43 seconds remaining in the first half after sophomore forward Harrison Barnes hit a pair of free throws. North Carolina took a 43-40 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Duke nailed seven 3s in the first half alone, which certainly kept them in the game. North Carolina got a stellar first half performance from senior forward Tyler Zeller, who poured in 19 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. The second half was the exact opposite of the first half.
North Carolina started the second half right on a roll. The Tar Heels jumped out to a ten point lead just four minutes into the second half, forcing Duke to call a quick timeout. North Carolina was up as many as 13 points in the second half. The Tar Heels held a ten point lead with just over two minutes to go in the game. However, the Blue Devils did not give up. Duke went on a twelve-to-three run which narrowed the Tar Heel lead to one with 18 seconds left. Zeller worked his way to the foul line with 13 seconds left, and made the first free throw to give North Carolina an 84-82 lead. Zeller missed the second free throw which gave Duke one last shot to tie the game, or go for the win. With no timeouts Duke was forced to push the ball up the floor, and get the ball into the hands of Rivers. Rivers worked his way around to the right side of the perimeter and had Zeller guarding him, a clear mismatch. Rivers pulled up for a three instead of trying to force the game into overtime. The ball hit nothing but the bottom of the net and gave Duke the 85-84 victory. This was Duke’s only lead of the second half, but it was the only one that mattered.
Rivers finished the game with a game-high 29 points, including six 3-pointers. Barnes finished the game with 25 points for North Carolina, after only scoring six in the first half. The Blue Devils were able to keep Tyler Zeller in check the whole second half, as he finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Duke improves its record to 20-4 overall, and 7-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. North Carolina ends the game with the same record as Duke, at 20-4 overall and 7-2 in the ACC.