Duke basketball tops North Carolina on Senior Night behind dynamic duoSenior Night is a time for a team's elder statesmen to take center stage. But Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium it was two underclassmen who electrified the home crowd for what could be the final time in their collegiate careers.
Freshman Jabari Parker led the way with a career-high 30 points and redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood added 24 as the No. 4 Blue Devils finished the regular season in style with a 93-81 victory against No. 14 North Carolina.
After Duke's first loss to the Tar Heels two weeks ago, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team was missing an "it" factor. There was no questioning this time around that the Blue Devils' stars were in control of their destiny.
"It's hard to say what 'it' is, but whatever the hell 'it' is, Jabari found it," North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said.
Both Parker and Hood are expected to depart for the NBA after this season and both could be lottery picks. After the contest, both said that they had yet to make a decision concerning their respective NBA futures.
Coming off a 6-for-27 performance from 3-point range in an upset loss to Wake Forest Wednesday, Duke (24-7, 13-5 in the ACC) continued its shooting slump to start the game against its arch rival. The Blue Devils managed just 2-for-13 from long range in the first half, but took a 40-37 lead into the locker room thanks to the team's interior presence and ability to force eight North Carolina (23-8, 13-5) turnovers.
"I thought in the first half we had some really good looks," Krzyzewski said. "We were 2-for-13 from three and we just hadn’t been shooting well. At halftime we said, ‘just keep shooting, just keep shooting.’"
Parker and Hood combined for 27 points in the opening 20 minutes and topped 20 points in the same game for the first time since a Nov. 24 victory against Vermont.
"Jabari was sensational. So was Rodney," Krzyzewski said. "This was the first game where the two of them were sensational together. They’ve both been good together, but they were sensational together."
The play of Duke dynamic duo was instrumental in causing early foul trouble for Tar Heel forward James Michael McAdoo. However it was Amile Jefferson—who added eight points and eight rebounds in the contest—who forced McAdoo to commit his fourth foul just 52 seconds into the second half.
McAdoo's prolonged absence allowed Duke to dominate the glass, winning the rebounding battle 34-20 in the contest. In addition to his 30 points—becoming the first Blue Devil to top 30 against North Carolina since Nolan Smith dropped 34 in 2011—Parker added 11 boards.
The Blue Devils heated up from outside with McAdoo off the floor, hitting three of their first four attempts from long range to begin the second half. Triples by Quinn Cook and Andre Dawkins pushed Duke's lead back to double digits and a 3-pointer by Hood put the Blue Devils up 62-46 with 14:02 remaining, forcing the Tar Heels to take a timeout and sending the Cameron crowd into a frenzy.
Hood said that there was no way his team was going to be swept by North Carolina in the regular season for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
“No way," Hood said. "Not with the students and the fans behind us and the determination we had to win this game regardless of whether shots went in or not. We had to come out with this win. That was our mindset.”
North Carolina was able to cut the lead to eight in the closing minutes, but Duke held on thanks to a 27-for-31 performance from the free-throw line, allowing its senior class of Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston and Todd Zafirovski to earn a victory in its final home game.
Shifting their focus toward the postseason, the Blue Devils will be the No. 3 seed in this year's ACC tournament. After receiving a bye through the first two rounds, Duke will begin postseason play Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum Friday at 9 p.m.
"We're looking forward to it," Hood said. "We want to go win a championship."