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.