Despite a furious comeback in the waning minutes, Duke couldn’t manage a second straight win against North Carolina, falling 74-69 in the ACC tournament semifinal. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways:    

1.Was the offensive resurgence against Notre Dame a mirage?

The Blue Devils had been going through an offensive downturn at the end of conference play, but they seemed to turn it back on against Notre Dame, dropping 88 points Thursday night. But all those gains vanished. 

Duke turned the ball over an astonishing 18 times, leading to 21 points on turnovers for North Carolina. The Tar Heels didn’t have a particularly strong offensive showing—they shot just 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from deep—but they were able to put up 17 more shots than the Blue Devils as a result of all of their turnovers. 

Duke also struggled mightily from deep, shooting just 26 percent. Right now, it seems like Duke’s gains on offense against the Fighting Irish, a merely passable defensive team, were somewhat of a mirage. If Duke wants to avoid an early exit in the NCAA tournament, it will have to get its offense rolling once again. 

2. Duval needs to step it up

Duval has helped Duke’s offense flow at times, but on Friday, he was a major reason why it stagnated. After turning the ball over six times on Thursday against Notre Dame, he coughed it up five times and scored zero points. That’s not going to cut it. 

Why has Duval been so off? Sometimes, it’s because he tries to do too much.

He relies too heavily on his skills at getting to the basket and tries to drive into double or triple teams, making his odds very slim to make a basket, much less hang onto the ball. The Blue Devils will need him to be significantly better if they want to make waves in the NCAA tournament. 

3. No, Grayson Allen’s hip check wasn’t intentional

Twitter erupted when Allen bumped into North Carolina forward Garrison Brooks, earning him a flagrant 1 foul.


But if you actually look at the play, it’s clear Allen did not intend to hip check Brooks. He was going for a steal, had to stop up and spin to avoid running into Cameron Johnson, and in the process, got in Brooks’ path. He had just jumped, so appeared lose his balance a bit, hence the hip sticking out to help him balance. He was not looking at Brooks when the play happened, so there was no way he could have been trying to hip check him. 

See for yourself: 

So yes, anyone else besides Allen would not have been called for a flagrant—he got the call based on his image, which he has earned. But not on this play. 

Three key stats: 

  1. Zero bench production

Duke couldn’t get anything from its bench—it got zero bench points to North Carolina’s 16Alex O'Connell flopped in nine minutes off the bench, posting a -13 ± in six minutes in the first half with Duval out due to a brief ankle injury scare. Marques Bolden also struggled in limited time, picking up two fouls in seven minutes, while Javin DeLaurier was also a non-factor. 

2. Luke Maye’s 17 points

Duke’s zone defense has been much stronger than its man defense, especially  but has been vulnerable at times to opposing big men. Friday was no different. Maye, a forward, scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Tar Heels. 

3. North Carolina’s 18 offensive rebounds

As they did in February to beat the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels won the battle on the offensive glass, pulling down 18 offensive rebounds, giving them many more chances to score. 

Looking forward: 

Duke certainly showed a lot of heart, nearly coming back from a 16-point deficit late, but it ended up putting the nails in its own coffin by turning the ball over too much. The Blue Devils will need to execute better on offense if they want to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. 

The loss probably means that Duke will not be playing in Charlotte for the first two rounds of the tournament—Pittsburgh could be in store.