Duke Reminds Everybody That It Might Be The Favorite In MarchPosted by KCarpenter on March 10th, 2013
It was over at the half. Coaches sometimes hate when others say that, but in Duke’s 69-53 victory over North Carolina, both Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski largely agreed–it was over at the half. Seth Curry was unstoppable, going 8-for-10 in the first stanza. He was closely guarded by Reggie Bullock and others, but in the end, nothing seemed to matter. “He toyed with us,” said Williams, and he wasn’t wrong. Curry led the Blue Devils to a 42 point first half (on 69.2% shooting) while a miserable looking North Carolina offense only managed 24 points (on 27.3% shooting).
Duke scored at will, jumping out to a 14-0 run to start the game and one that ultimately decided it. North Carolina had nice spurts as the game went on, and the margin fluctuated, but ultimately the 14 points held up all the way to the final buzzer. Curry cooled off in the second half, and North Carolina did a better job getting close shots at the basket, but ultimately, a strong game plan and Mason Plumlee did wonders for keeping the Tar Heels at a distance. Plumlee looked more comfortable than he has in a long time, racking up 23 points on 15 shots as well as 13 rebounds. Mason’s board work can stand on its own, but it was all the more impressive for the number it did against James Michael McAdoo. While McAdoo had occasional success scoring on Plumlee, he was simply dominated on the boards. Usually playing as Carolina’s only big, McAdoo managed only 3 rebounds in 34 minutes. For reference, Plumlee had three times as many boards on the offensive end as McAdoo had on the defensive end. The Duke big man’s dominance on the boards kept Carolina at bay throughout the second half.
The Tar Heels did make a second half run, technically slightly winning the half 29-27 while shooting 41.4% to the Blue Devils’ 39.1%. Still, after spotting Duke 14 points to start the game and with Plumlee controlling the boards, the greatly improved play in the second half simply didn’t matter. Krzyzewski put it very simply in his post-game comments: “Obviously, we played really well tonight.” With Miami’s recent stumbles, Duke looks like the hottest and most talented team in the conference.
It wasn’t just the individual star performances. Duke’s game plan made the rejuvenated “new Carolina line-up” look remarkably like the team that floundered in the early part of the season. A team that had been shooting three-pointers frequently and accurately attempted “only” 14 three-pointers and made exactly 1 of them and that was with only five minutes left in the game. The potent perimeter attack that had been the engine behind UNC’s recent win streak evaporated as Duke’s defense chased shooters off the three-point line and forced lots of long, contested twos. UNC eventually adjusted, but by then it was far too late.
In the locker room after the game, Williams apologized to his team. In his ten years as head coach at UNC, and in all his years as an assistant under Dean Smith, Williams’ teams had never lost a Senior Day game. That streak has come to an end, and all UNC’s players and coaches could talk about was learning from their mistakes and moving on. It was a painful loss, one that clearly hurt North Carolina. Still the team seems ready and eager to redeem themselves in Greensboro at the ACC Tournament. A somber Williams raised his voice in emphasis: “This doesn’t define what this team is.”