Tar Heels work up big lead, hold on to stop Duke

North Carolina worked up a 16-point lead with a pair of runs in the second half but had to hold on to survive a late 13-0 Duke run to make it to the ACC Championship game and take the season series against the Devils, 74-69. “I have nothing to say about the last five minutes,” UNC coach Roy Williams said joking that an assistant coach was coaching during that time. “It was just sloppy… But we made enough plays. We’re still playing so I’m happy.” Coach Williams said for most of the game the Tar Heels were making key shots […]

North Carolina worked up a 16-point lead with a pair of runs in the second half but had to hold on to survive a late 13-0 Duke run to make it to the ACC Championship game and take the season series against the Devils, 74-69.

“I have nothing to say about the last five minutes,” UNC coach Roy Williams said joking that an assistant coach was coaching during that time. “It was just sloppy… But we made enough plays. We’re still playing so I’m happy.”

Coach Williams said for most of the game the Tar Heels were making key shots and playing well defensively.

Carolina forced 18 Blue Devil turnovers.

“Turnovers hurt us, and their offensive rebounding,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said adding that his team showed what it was made of over the last six minutes. “We had a chance but we needed to do that earlier.”

The Tar Heels upped a five-point halftime margin to double figures when Theo Pinson, who was hindered with foul trouble, scored on an up-and-under shot to put the Heels up 54-43.

A Kenny Williams three midway through the half extended the lead to 14 at 62-48. Carolina got its biggest lead of the game on a short jumper by Luke Maye that made it 72-56 with 5:31 to go.

But then Carolina went cold and Duke, in desperation mode, forced four UNC turnovers in five possessions. All the while the Devils were scoring on the offensive end. A Grayson Allen three cut it to 72-66 with a three from the corner with 1:48 left. After Maye turned the ball over with a minute left, Duke’s Gary Trent popped in a three with 50 seconds left to bring the Devils to within three at 72-69.

Maye turned it over yet again with 23 seconds left but UNC’s Williams drew a charge on Duke’s Allen with 18 seconds left. Carolina gave it right back to Duke when Theo Pinson, who was double teamed, lost the ball out of bounds with 11.8 left.

Allen, leaning in to try to draw a foul, missed a three and Pinson got the rebound with 3.2 left. He was immediately fouled. Pinson, facing a one-and-one situation, hit two free throws to wrap it up and give the Tar Heels their first points in nearly five and a half minutes.

After a slow start to the game by both teams, Carolina’s Cam Johnson, Joel Berry and Kenny Williams all drained threes in one minute of game action to give the Heels a 13-3 lead five minutes in.

The Tar Heels extended that lead to 13 before Duke, which started two of 10 shooting with seven turnovers, got hot fueled by five blocked shots.

The Devils, on an 8-0 run, took the lead at 27-26 on a Marvin Bagley hook with less than two minutes left in the half. But after a long Berry three gave Carolina the lead back, the Heels worked the lead up to seven before settling for a 36-31 halftime lead.

During that late run, Grayson Allen was Grayson Allen and picked up a flagrant foul when he poked his butt out to knock down Garrison Brooks, who hit both free throws.

Brooks, off the bench, scored 10 points but the Tar Heels were led by Maye’s 17 points and 10 rebounds. Berry scored 13 while Williams and Cam Johnson added 10 each as five Tar Heels scored in double figures.

Trent led four Blue Devils in double figures with 20 points.

The Tar Heels, now 25-9 overall, play Virginia for the ACC Tournament Championship Saturday night. Duke goes into the NCAA Tournament with a 26-7 record.

For a box score and more on the game, please click here.