CHAPEL HILL — Down by as many as 13 during the second half, No. 10 Duke rallied for an 85-84 victory against No. 5 North Carolina. A look back at how UNC let a 10-point lead slip away in the final 2 minutes and 38 seconds:
Why the Tar Heels lost: Two things happened during the final 2:38, after North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes made a shot to put his team up 82-72. One, Duke made a lot of critical plays. The Blue Devils made 3-pointers and came up with important defensive stops. Second, UNC made a lot of mistakes. The Heels turned it over twice in the final 2:38, and missed two key foul shots. Without both of these things happening in the final minutes – Duke making plays, UNC making mistakes – the outcome would have been different. It was strange, the way this happened. The Heels had taken care of the ball and made free throws most of the game … until the final minutes. And Duke had struggled with its 3-point shooting throughout the second half … until the final minutes. Simply put, the Blue Devils made plays down the stretch – a lot of them. And they did that while the Tar Heels wilted under pressure.
The good: Tyler Zeller dominated the first half, when he scored 19 of his 23 points. And Barnes, playing on a gimpy left ankle, dominated the second half, when he scored 19 of his team-high 25 points. It will be overlooked given what happened at the end, and how the Tar Heels lost, but they played well throughout most of the first 38 minutes of this game. After a quiet first half, Barnes was sensational during the second. It was clear that his injured left ankle – he sprained it last week during a victory at Wake Forest – slowed him down during the first half. And he lacked acceleration even during the second half. But he scored 15 of his points during the first 10 minutes of the second half, just when it seemed like UNC was set to pull away for good.
The bad: A few things that have been problems for UNC throughout the season haunted the Heels on Wednesday night. And those three things are: Perimeter defense, free-throw shooting and lack of production off the bench. The Tar Heels perimeter defense was spotty throughout the game and even when Duke went through a cold stretch during the second half, the Devils were getting plenty of open looks from 3-point range. UNC did well from the free throw line for most of the night, but Zeller missed a couple of free throws in the final minute that the Heels couldn’t afford to miss. And the bench was nearly a non-factor, outside of the six points that James Michael McAdoo scored. He provided UNC’s only points off the bench. In addition to all that, there was this: UNC scored just 12 points off of 15 offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels simply didn’t take advantage of second-chance opportunities. Meanwhile, Duke scored 17 points off of 12 offensive rebounds.
Key stat: Duke made 14 of its 36 3-point attempts and, clearly, the Blue Devils wanted to test UNC from the outside. The Heels made just 1 of their 6 3-point attempts. Overall, UNC made four more shots from the field than Duke did, and outshot the Devils 49.2 percent to 43.5 percent. The 3-point differential, though, was a lot for UNC to overcome – and it nearly did.
Key stat II: After making 13 of its 15 free throws during the first half, UNC made 8 of 15 during the second. Duke also missed seven free throws during the second half, but two of UNC’s misses came in the final minute, when it was desperately attempting to cling to its lead.
UNC player of the game: Barnes. He played through pain, again, and was at its best during the first 10 minutes of the second half, when UNC led by as many as 13 points.
Quotable: “This one hurts.” –Williams