The loss means Duke finishes the ACC regular season with just an 8-8 record, marking the first time in more than a decade the Blue Devils have failed to obtain a winning conference mark.
After scoring the first basket of the game the Blue Devils watched as North Carolina reeled off a 12-0 run that would set the tone for the remainder of the half, and after a closely contested second half, send the Tar Heels into the ACC Tournament on a high note.
Meanwhile, Duke will limp into Tampa as the conference's seventh seed.
As with the other eight losses leading up to Sunday the recipe for Duke's demise began with an inability to protect the basketball, and compounded into extended periods of offensive inefficiency that, with the explosiveness of North Carolina, produced a deficit too great for the Blue Devils to recover from.
However, the Blue Devils did make it interesting. After trailing by 11 early in the second half, Duke used a 13-4 run to cut the lead to 46-42 with 15:41 remaining. Duke would have a chance to tie or take the lead with 12:32 remaining, but Greg Paulus turned the ball over and North Carolina streaked down the court where Tyler Hansbrough converted a three point play to give his team a five point cushion.
It was all part of a 12-2 game deciding stretch for the home team as Roy Williams sent in fresh body after fresh body onto the court while Duke's apparently limited bench could not provide the same amount of relief. In the end the Blue Devils would tire while the Tar Heels remained strong until the final horn sounded.
Hansbrough finished with a game high 26 points and 17 rebounds, while Reyshawn Terry added 15 for the Tar Heels in his regular season game.
Unfortunately the game ended on a nasty note for both teams. With starters still in the game, Hansbrough grabbed a rebound over Duke walk-on Steve Johnson and attempted to go back up. At that moment Henderson went for a block, but instead struck Hansbrough in the face, appearing to break the North Carolina sophomore's nose. After a lengthy discussion at the scorers table the referees ejected Henderson, rendering him unavailable for Duke's ACC Tournament opener.
Henderson finished with 16 points and six rebounds for the Blue Devils.