BROOKLYN, N.Y. – No. 5 seed Duke stormed past top-seeded North Carolina with a 20-4 second-half run to erase a 13-point deficit and advance to the ACC Tournament finals with a 93-83 victory at the Barclays Center.
"It was a big-time game for a while, and then it got so it was not a big-time game," UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "I think the most disciplined, the best coached team, the most focused team is the one that won the game tonight."
The Tar Heels were rolling along until Joel Berry picked up his fourth foul on a reach with 15:04 to play. UNC scored on its first two possessions after Berry checked out to push its lead to 61-48 with 13:53 remaining, and that’s when Duke began its comeback.
The Blue Devils’ 20-4 run spanned more than five minutes of game time and gave them a 68-65 lead with 8:24 to play. After UNC tied the game at 70-70, Duke answered with an 11-2 spurt to seal its third victory in as many days.
The Blue Devils outscored UNC, 45-22, over the final 13:53.
Duke shot 59.1 percent in the second half, including 62.5 percent from 3-point range, while the Tar Heels struggled to replicate its first half success, converting just 28.6 percent of their field goal attempts.
A day after Roger Ayers’s crew allowed UNC and Miami to play a physical brand of basketball, the ACC’s semifinal crew of Brian Dorsey, Bill Covington and Ron Groover made their impact on the game with an abundance of questionable calls. UNC’s 28 personal fouls were a season high, as were Duke's 33 made free throws and 37 free throw attempts by a Tar Heel opponent.
"We had some foul trouble, and some of those were silly fouls," Williams said. "It's my job to make sure that we're more disciplined than we were.”
Meeks Strong in the Post
Duke was successful in the regular season limiting the impact of Kennedy Meeks (17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in both games). The Blue Devils fronted him effectively in Durham, while the Tar Heel senior took a back seat to Isaiah Hicks on Senior Night at the Smith Center.
Meeks made his presence felt early at the Barclays Center, scoring 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting before subbing out to a loud ovation with 13:18 to play in the first half. He scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting before halftime, matching his field goal total from the first two games against Duke.
His final points, however, came with 13:53 to play. Duke's sagging defensive approach after halftime, along with UNC's poor movement inside, limited his touches late.
"We didn't do a great job of moving so much on the offensive end," Meeks said. "Setting screens for Justin [Jackson] and Joel [Berry] definitely could have helped us a lot."
The Charlotte, N.C. native finished with 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Jackson’s 3FG Shooting Struggles Continue
ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson missed eight of his 11 3-point attempts against the Blue Devils, continuing a late-season shooting slump from long range. The junior wing is shooting 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from behind the arc over his last four games.
Pinson Handing Out Dimes
Theo Pinson continued his role as UNC’s primary facilitator against the Blue Devils, making difficult passes in chaos for layups. The junior wing dished out six assists before halftime and finished with eight dimes. His assist-turnover ratio is 3.4:1 through 16 games this season 61 assists, 18 turnovers).
First Half Efficiency, Second Half Woes
UNC shot 55.6 percent in the first half and converted 7-of-8 free throw attempts. The Tar Heels assisted on 15 of 20 field goals, while scoring six second-chance points off eight offensive rebounds.
As a result, UNC averaged 1.32 points per possession, good for its second-most efficient half of the season (1.37, Northern Iowa).
The second half was a different matter all together. UNC shot 28.6 percent on 12-of-42 shooting (3-of-14 3FG) and averaged 0.9 points per possession.
UNC will now await its fate on Selection Sunday. The Tar Heels are in solid position for the No. 1 seed in the South Region and are all but assured of playing their opening weekend in Greenville, S.C.