The first half was a knockout fight between two Atlantic Coast Conference heavyweights. Both battled each other punch for punch, and it looked as if the game might go down the buzzer. However, the second half Duke ran away with the ballgame in route to a 90-75 win.
Starting the first half, the No. 20 Heels shot out to a 22-14 lead with 12:30 remaining powered by a trio of threes from Nikki Teasley, Kenya McBee and Coretta Brown. The lead grew when fifth-ranked Duke starting center Michele Matyasovky took a seat on the bench with two quick fouls. With their starting center out, Duke was forced to collapse down on the middle, opening up the outside for Brown and Teasley.
Duke led at half 45-42 when Wynter Whitley closed the half with two buckets, one coming from behind the arc. The Duke Blue Devils were sparked by Alana Beard and Iciss Tillis, who tallied 11 and 12 points respectively. Teasley led the inspired Heels with 15 points and eight rebounds at half. Brown added 15.
The second half was a completely different story. Lasting for the first nine minutes in the second half, a cold-shooting slump by Carolina helped as the Blue Devils went on a 29-2 run.
"1-for-21 [shooting to open the second half], I thought we missed some good shots and they were getting out in transition," said Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell. "We make six or eight shots and the game goes down the wire."
Leading the Blue Devils' second half run was All-American Beard and 6-foot-4 sophomore Tillis, who finished the game with a combined total of 49 points, nine assists and 19 rebounds.
"We stepped up to the challenge," said shooting-guard Beard who shot 10-of-17.
"I thought it was a great second half - the focus, the intensity," said Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors. "I was just really pleased with the win. I thought we did just a tremendous job on the defensive end of the floor."
With the win, Duke finished the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record, the second team in ACC history to finish with such a record. The Blue Devils look to finish off the ACC competition with the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. on March 1-4.
"We are looking forward to the ACC tourney," said Goestenkors. "We still have so much more to do. We are not content by any means."
Despite the final score, 90-75, Hatchell remained optimistic that her team will be ready by ACC tournament time next weekend.
"I don't know [if UNC will play Duke in the ACC], but I'd like to have a chance," said Hatchell, but emphasized that her team will not overlook any other team in the ACC tournament. "We learned some things. Hopefully if we get to play again we won't go dry on our shooting."
Sunday was senior night for Carolina's lone senior, Nikki Teasley. She ended the game with her ninth career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Brown was the leading scorer with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting.
Carolina finished second in the ACC regular season with an 11-5 conference record. The Heels will play Saturday, March 2 at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of the seven-eight game featuring Wake Forest vs Maryland.
UNC swept the Terps in the regular season but split with Wake Forest, as the Deacs defeated a Carolina squad minus Teasley, 65-64, in Winston-Salem. Earlier today, Wake Forest defeated Maryland.
Sherrell McMillan contributed to this story