CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 5 North Carolina blended an efficient post game with Joel Berry’s hot hand to dismiss No. 17 Duke, 90-83, on Senior Night and cement its outright ACC regular season championship.
Berry found his rhythm early, knocking down his first four field goal attempts, which included three 3-pointers, in scoring 19 first-half points. The junior point guard connected on all five of his 3-point attempts in scoring 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
It was Berry’s first 20-point game since scoring 26 points against Florida State on Jan. 14 and the second-highest scoring total of his career (31 at Clemson).
Isaiah Hicks made amends for his absence in the first matchup, scoring 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Tony Bradley and Luke Maye combined for 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting off the bench.
The Tar Heels finished the regular season with a 26-6 (14-4 ACC) record and posted a perfect 15-0 record at the Smith Center.
Hicks missed the first and only game of his Tar Heel career at Cameron Indoor last month with a hamstring injury. The senior forward made amends early, scoring 10 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting. His lone miss was a dunk attempt that ricocheted off the back of the rim.
"We are better when Isaiah is playing and playing well," UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "Needless to say, if you're got 22 minutes played and scored 21 points and nine rebounds, he's playing and playing well."
Hicks’s 21 points are his most since scoring 22 points against Florida State on Jan. 14.
Much like the first game in Durham, both UNC and Duke scored often and efficiently in a game that topped 174 total possessions. The Tar Heels shot 50.7 percent and averaged 1.22 points per possession, while the Blue Devils converted 44.4 percent of their field goal attempts and managed 1.19 points per possession.
ACC POY Matchup
The Dean E. Smith Center provided one final stage for Justin Jackson and Luke Kennard to make their cases for ACC Player of the Year. Both were hounded defensively, resulting in limited open looks and numerous tough field goal attempts. Kennard converted more of the latter, scoring a team-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Jackson finished with 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting (1-of-7 3FG).
"It's always tough to be the main dog because the other team's coming after you," Williams said. "The guys that can score when the other defense is aimed at them and they're still successful, that means you're pretty doggone good."
Jackson elevated his game during a pivotal stretch with six minutes to play. After making his first 3-pointer from the top of the key to break a 71-71 tie, the junior wing assisted on baskets to Hicks and Luke Maye on UNC’s next two possessions.
UNC improved to 10-4 against RPI Top-50 teams. The 10 wins tie Villanova, Butler and Duke for the most against RPI Top-50 opponents in the country.
Career ACC Wins
Hicks and fellow senior Nate Britt tied Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green for the most career ACC wins in UNC history with 58. The duo has won 52 regular season and six ACC Tournament games.
Duke’s 28 made free throws matched the season high by a UNC opponent (Georgia Tech) and its 35 free throw attempts marked a new season high by an opponent.
The Tar Heels open ACC Tournament play in Brooklyn on Thursday at noon against the winner of the No. 8 seed Syracuse (18-13, 10-8 ACC) and No. 9 seed Miami (20-10, 10-8 ACC). UNC topped the Orange, 85-68, on Jan. 16 at the Smith Center and lost to the Hurricanes, 77-62, on Jan. 28 in Coral Gables.