Coming into the game, the Blue Devils’ inability to match up with North Carolina’s post players appeared to be a point of concern.

Duke is hanging with North Carolina on the boards and getting strong play from Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, but as expected the Blue Devils are in a tight one with their Tobacco Road rivals.

Thanks to Allen's fourth 3-pointer of the game, No. 18 Duke leads the No. 8 Tar Heels 40-39 at the half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Allen, Kennard and freshman Frank Jackson combined for 33 points and were unstoppable at times in the opening period, which featured 13 lead changes. 

North Carolina's Justin Jackson responded with equally impressive shot-making for the Tar Heels, matching Allen with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. 

Playing without starting big man Isaiah Hicks, who is out with a hamstring injury, North Carolina started the game attacking the basket relentlessly. The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 17-12 lead by pushing the ball up the floor on Duke misses and beating the Blue Devils to the hoop in transition. 

But the Blue Devils took control of the game with an 8-0 spurt fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers from Allen and Jackson.

With North Carolina scoring more than half of their points in the paint as expected, Duke has stayed in the contest by starting hot from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils finished the first half 6-of-14 from long range and used their ability to space the floor to open up the driving lane for Allen. 

The junior has controlled Duke's offense in this one with 14 points and two assists, including a 3-pointer before the halftime buzzer that could give the Blue Devils momentum heading into the second half. 

Here are some observations from the first half:

  • The Blue Devils showed full court pressure multiple times in the first half, with Duke’s guards playing North Carolina's Joel Berry II all the way up the floor. The Tar Heel floor general was held to four points and no assists. 
  • Junior guard Theo Pinson returned to the floor for North Carolina after missing three games with an ankle injury. The 6-foot-6 guard has been all over floor for the Tar Heels and racked up four quick rebounds, though North Carolina and Duke are tied at 14 on the boards through 20 minutes.
  • Matt Jones has shown his value as a defender with a pair of steals near Duke’s bench in the first half. He also made a key 3-pointer.
  • Freshman Harry Giles has been active when on the floor and finished with four points in eight minutes of play. The Blue Devils went to an unconventional lineup with Bolden and Giles on the floor together for a couple of minutes in the first half. 
  • Bolden and Amile Jefferson both have two fouls at the break, a key factor to watch given Duke's issues defending without fouling this year.