Tar Heels Race Past Duke

Nolan Smith and Seth Curry weren't enough for the Blue Devils on Saturday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Harrison Barnes scored 18 points to help No. 13 North Carolina beat No. 4 Duke 81-67 on Saturday night, clinching the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.

Kendall Marshall had 15 points and 11 assists as the Tar Heels (24-6, 14-2) ended a three-game losing streak to their fierce rival and earned the top seed in next week's ACC tournament. North Carolina also avenged last month's loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium in which the Tar Heels blew a 16-point lead in the first half.

Once again, the Tar Heels built a big lead in the first half, this time 14 points. But Barnes and the Tar Heels protected that margin Saturday and stayed in control the entire night in a game that had tension and energy befitting a postseason game. Nolan Smith scored 30 points for Duke (27-4, 13-3), while Seth Curry had 20 points with six 3-pointers.

In many ways, it was a replay of the first meeting for the Blue Devils. Just as before, Smith and Curry completely carried the offense while Kyle Singler struggled to make much of anything while matching up much of the night against Barnes -- the heralded recruit who picked North Carolina over Duke and other schools to cap a highly publicized recruiting battle.

But Barnes was more aggressive than he was in the first meeting, leading an offense that shot 52 percent -- the highest Duke had allowed in any league game this season. In addition, Marshall helped North Carolina get plenty of good looks to maintain a comfortable margin against the cold-shooting Blue Devils.

And when it was over, fans and students rushed onto the court to celebrate a surprisingly dominant victory against the reigning national champions. In fact, North Carolina coach Roy Williams had to address the crowd for them to clear off and allow his players to celebrate with his own tradition -- clipping down the nets after clinching a league title at home.

Duke shot just 36 percent, including 6 for 27 from 3-point range. Singler, who shot just 3 for 17 in the first meeting, went 3 for 14 and missed all five 3-point tries while finishing with just eight points.

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