CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—In a battle of the nation’s best two rebounding teams, Duke has owned the glass, but North Carolina’s hot shooting has helped it stick around. 

The No. 9 Blue Devils’ size and athleticism has been too much for the No. 21 Tar Heels to handle, but behind X 3-pointers, North Carolina trails Duke just 49-45 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Cameron Johnson led the way with 13 points to help offset a dominant half from Marvin Bagley III and Co. on the boards—Duke owns a 21-16 rebounding margin. 

The Blue Devils have been able to penetrate into the heart of the North Carolina defense, outscoring the Tar Heels 30-14 in the paint. Bagley has nine points and nine boards, three of which came on the offensive end of the floor. After turning the ball over with reckless abandon against St. John’s Saturday, Duke has played a very clean game, giving it away just three times. 

Duke led for most of the beginning of the first half until Williams caught fire to give North Carolina a 21-19 lead with just more than 12 minutes left. But then the Blue Devils went on a 21-7 run, sparked by six points from Marques Bolden off the bench and 10 consecutive made field goals. 

But the Tar Heels closed the half on a 17-9 run to keep things interesting. 

Here are a few observations from the first half:

  • Bolden has had an effective outing spelling Carter and Bagley off the bench, scoring eight points in nine minutes. 
  • Jack White was the first man off the bench for Duke, subbing in for Trevon Duval just a few minutes into the game. The sophomore played just two scoreless minutes. After sitting against St. John’s, Alex O’Connell came in at the end of the half and scored five points, and the Blue Devils have used nine players in total. 
  • Duke has had no answer for Carolina’s three-ball—the Tar Heels have shot 7-of-16 from deep. 
  • Senior captain Grayson Allen has looked confident after struggling against the Red Storm Saturday, scoring nine points and hitting two 3-pointers. 
  • Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Allen and Duval all have two fouls for the Blue Devils.