Duke trailed by eight with fewer than seven minutes to play but held North Carolina to five points the rest of the way to top the Tar Heels 74-73 in Chapel Hill.
The Blue Devils took their first lead since midway through the first half when Luke Kennard sank a three-point from the right corner with 2:37 to go. After a Kennedy Meeks basket inside for Carolina, and a UNC turnover, Grayson Allen drove to the hoop and was fouled. He hit both free throws with 1:09 left to make it 74-73.
Carolina had two chances to take the lead. Meeks’ shot was blocked inside with 50 seconds left and Joel Berry had a 10 footer in the lane deflected by Derryck Thornton with four seconds to go.
“I told the kids I should have called a timeout,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “We didn’t get a very good shot.”
Carolina got the ball down by 1 with 16 seconds left but Williams said traditionally UNC doesn’t call a timeout in that situation because the Heels want to attack before the defense can get set. That strategy didn’t work.
“It’s a wonderful rivalry to be involved in but I’m tired of just being involved,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get better.”
It was the fourth straight win for Duke in the rivalry and the 11th in the last 14 games between the two teams.
The loss overshadowed a fine performance by UNC’s Brice Johnson who scored 29 points and hauled in 19 rebounds. Johnson scored 18 in the first half as the Heels, who led by as many as seven in the first half, led 46-42 at the break.
Carolina’s largest lead was eight at 68-60 with 6:52 left. A wild up and down couple of minutes that included back-to-back blocks by Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson ended with a fastbreak follow shot by Jackson that gave the Heels the eight-point advantage and had the Carolina crowd hopping and Duke Coach K hopping mad. He called a timeout and glared at the officials.
Brandon Ingram, who was favored to go to Carolina before the uncertainty of the NCAA academic investigation, scored six straight points to draw the deficit to two and setting up the painful ending for the Tar Heels.
UNC’s Paige, who was only two of 10 from the floor including zero of six from beyond the arc, missed a free throw with 3:52 left that would have given the Heels a three-point cushion. Then UNC’s Berry missed everything with 2:54 left as the Heels were charged with a shot clock violation.
Carolina’s guards, and other outside shooters, didn’t get it done from the perimeter as the Heels hit only one of 13 three-point shots. On the other side, Duke hit seven threes. That’s 18 points that the Heels had to make up elsewhere.
“I don’t think we were lucky to win this game,” Duke coach Krzyzewski said. “We fought hard and earned it.”
Duke, 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the ACC, was led by Allen’s 23 points and Ingram’s 20 points. The Blue Devils lost starting shooting guard Matt Jones in the first half to a right-ankle injury but Kennard came in to replace him and scored 15 points including that go-ahead three late.
The loss drops the Tar Heels, 21-5 and 10-3 in the league, into a tie for first in the ACC with Miami, who comes to Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon.
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