Offensively, North Carolina was near perfect against Duke on Wednesday night in the Smith Center:
• Harrison Barnes had a dominant second half to finish with 25 points.
• Tyler Zeller had a dominant first half to finish with 23.
• John Henson went 2-for-2 on free throws en route to a 12-point, 17-rebound performance.
• Playmaker Kendall Marshall had one of his best games ever — 14 points and eight assists with only two minutes rest.
And yet, none of it really mattered when Duke’s Austin Rivers converted the last of 14 Duke 3-point field goals for an 85-84 last-second win.
Rivers’ 3, which came after two others late in the game by teammates Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry, dropped about three hours after ACC officiating director John Clougherty sat in the stands and discussed the impact of 3-point marksmen since the NCAA went to it in 1986.
“That one thing has changed the game more than anything else in basketball history, I think,” said Clougherty, who officiated for decades.
“The (college) shot clock was important. But most teams were playing quicker before that came about. The 3-pointer, though. That turned everything around.”
Duke got 42 points off 3s Wednesday. UNC got three points and attempted only six.
Had it been an election, the Tar Heels would have lost only one precinct.
And as much as Carolina fans, Roy Williams and his players can beat themselves up over their perimeter defense, most of Duke’s 3s were contested. Zeller was a step late moving out on Rivers at the end, but the last thing UNC needed to do was foul one of the best shooters in the ACC with less than three seconds left and a 2-point lead.
Although Dean Smith was the most prominent early proponent of the 3-point arc, Carolina traditionally has shunned dependence on deep outside shooting.
Mathematically and logically, the short-range shot is more likely to produce wins.
But give a team enough 3-point shooters — Duke has several — and there can be games when logic doesn’t count for much.