Carolina Outlasts Duke, 79-73

With both Duke and North Carolina coming off losses, Wednesday night promised to be a game of high stakes and even higher emotion. As it happens at least twice a season, both programs delivered with North Carolina winning the first round, 79-73.

The Blue Devils certainly battled and played their most inspired basketball of the season, but in the end it was North Carolina's depth coupled with Duke's inability to sustain a fast start that proved to be the difference.

Duke led by as many as 10 in the second half at 50-40 with on a DeMarcus Nelson with 16:50 remaining in the second half. From that point the offense once again became unable to score - this time for more than seven minutes, allowing the Tar Heels to rally on the strength of a 12-2 run to tie it at 52 on a jumper by Tyler Hansbrough.

From there it was about depth and momentum, two things that weren't in Duke's favor against the ACC's best team. The teams traded blows, but when Reyshawn Terry knocked down a lay-up to make it 62-60 the momentum had fully swung into the light blue's corner and Duke just couldn't rally as the Tar Heels would push the lead to as many as seven before settling for the final six point margin.

Despite losing to their arch rivals, the Blue Devils were given a number of bright spots to focus on as they head to College Park looking to break the losing losing streak in more than a decade. The most notable was a coming out party of sorts for Gerald Henderson who scored a career best 14 points, including several big shots to keep Duke in the game late. Classmate Jon Scheyer was even better, logging a game high 26 points in a losing effort.

It also didn't help that the young Blue Devils shot just 3-of-10 from the free throw line in the second half after hitting all nine attempts in the opening half. The fast start in those first 20 minutes saw Duke knock down nine of their first 12 field goal attempts before cooling off substantially and converting just four of the next 19 shots - allowing the Tar Heels to stay within striking distance.

Duke jumped out to that early lead thanks to the hot shooting of Scheyer and sophomore Greg Paulus, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, but went extremely cold from the field the rest of the way, finishing just 5-of-17 from the field. However the Duke guard logged his best game of the season in terms of valuing the basketball with four assists and no turnovers in 37 minutes of action.

The Tar Heels' best effort didn't come from sophomore Tyler Hansbrough, but freshman power forward Brandan Wright. The 6-foot-10 Wright proved to be too much for any Blue Devil defender to deal with on his way to 19 points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes of action. Classmate Tywon Lawson added 14 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

With their freshmen logging big games on the offensive end, sophomore Josh McRoberts' offensive impact was severely limited by foul trouble. McRoberts played the final 11 minutes with four fouls, finishing with just six points on the night. He did add 11 rebounds and three assists.

Even with a great effort, Duke now finds themselves in serious trouble when speaking of post season seeding. The Blue Devils have now lost three straight games, and sit just 5-5 in conference play with back to back road games to Maryland and Boston College immediately approaching.


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