Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

With a chance to complete the regular-season sweep against its Tobacco Road rival, No. 17 Duke came up just short Saturday, falling 90-83 at No. 5 North Carolina. Although five different Blue Devils scored in double figures, the Blue Devils were unable to win and earn a double bye in the ACC tournament, meaning they will play Wednesday against either No. 12 Clemson or No. 13 N.C. State.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Limit the Heels in the paint: After Duke won the rebounding battle by a 31-30 margin in the teams' first matchup, many expected it to be a different outcome with North Carolina senior forward Isaiah Hicks back on the floor—he missed the Feb. 9 contest with a hamstring strain. Indeed, Hicks was crucial, as he led the Tar Heels with 9 rebounds as they outpaced the Blue Devils 35-31 on the glass and collected a dozen offensive boards. North Carolina controlled the game down low with 44 points in the paint and 15 second-chance points, capitalizing even when unable able to knock down shots from distance.
  • Get the scorers going early: In a game with plenty of offense, Duke had no problem pouring in the points early on. Luke Kennard—who finished the game with 28 points—racked up 13 before halftime, including a two-minute stretch midway through the first half when the sophomore scored eight during an 10-4 Blue Devil run. Despite slower starts from freshmen Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum, it was the wily veteran Amile Jefferson who helped Duke get going. The Philadelphia native had eight of the Blue Devils' first 10 points and proved to be a strong foil for Tar Heel big man Kennedy Meeks on his Senior Night in Chapel Hill.
  • Stay cool on the road: Despite not being able to come away with the victory, it was another positive Duke performance away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. After starting ACC play 0-3 away from Durham, the Blue Devils showed toughness on the road with a trio of consecutive wins at Wake Forest, Notre Dame and then Virginia. But with three more losses—all in a row—to close their road slate in ACC play, Duke will need to find a way to win away from home. The Blue Devils will have a slight edge in terms of fan support when they head to New York for the conference tournament next week, and just eight turnovers against North Carolina is certainly a positive jumping-off point. If Duke wants to bring a trophy or two back to Durham this season, however, it will need to string some defensive stops and victories together away from its home court.

Three key stats:

  • The Blue Devils miss six second-half free throws: With Duke earning 17 trips to the free throw line in the first half and missing just once, it appeared that the charity stripe would be the Blue Devils' friend Saturday night. Down the stretch, though, it was Duke's downfall as it shot just 12-of-18 from the line in the final 20 minutes despite getting into the bonus at the 8:49 mark of the second half. Tatum and Allen missed four crucial free throws in the final 3:28 and the Blue Devils missed on seven free throws for the game—which could have been just enough to send the game to overtime.
  • Duke tallies just eight assists: The Blue Devils just barely won the assist battle—against Tar Heel forward Theo Pinson, that is. Pinson finished the game with seven helpers of his own whereas Duke struggled to make the crucial passes. Instead, the Blue Devils frequently opted for isolation offense and found themselves forcing up tough contested shots. North Carolina, on the other hand, registered 19 assists on 34 made buckets—led by Pinson and four dimes from junior Justin Jackson.
  • 14 points in 23 minutes for Grayson Allen: As the junior guard still struggles with the ankle injury that kept him out of last Saturday's game at Miami and limited him Tuesday against Florida State, Allen had a considerable impact in a short period of time. The Jacksonville, Fla., native posted 10 points before intermission and made his hay at the charity stripe with eight first-half makes. Although Allen's misses from the line were key late, his two triples came at big moments and the experienced guard will have to play a major role if Duke hopes to make a lengthy postseason run.

Three key plays: Read more »

Halftime: North Carolina 48, Duke 46

CHAPEL HILL—The Blue Devils used a barrage of 3-pointers to beat North Carolina 86-78 a month ago, but it may take even more offense than that to win another shootout this time around.

No. 17 Duke trails No. 5 North Carolina 48-46 after a half of play at the Dean E. Smith Center, led by 13 points from Luke Kennard and 10 points for Grayson Allen. The Blue Devils are also staying competitive on the boards for the second straight time against the top rebounding team in the nation, but there haven't been many missed shots available to rebound on either end.

Both teams are shooting better than 50 percent from the field so far, running up and down the floor in a fast-paced half that featured 18 lead changes. Point guard Joel Berry II has knocked down 5-of-5 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead the Tar Heels.

Jefferson scored six of Duke's first eight points to put the Blue Devils in front in the early going, but North Carolina's offense soon found its footing with Berry and Isaiah Hicks leading the charge. Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

The Blue Devils can clinch a double bye in next week's ACC tournament with a win Saturday night at North Carolina, which has already locked up the top seed in the tournament. Nearly a month after Duke beat the Tar Heels in Durham, here are three keys for the Blue Devils to sweep their arch rivals.

Limit the Heels in the paint

In the first meeting between these teams this year, North Carolina was without star big man Isaiah Hicks, who averages 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Duke took advantage of his absence to the tune of a surprising win in the rebounding column 31-30, as freshman Jayson Tatum led all players with nine boards. With Hicks returning tomorrow night, the Blue Devils will need another all-out effort in the post to keep up with the Tar Heels’ experienced forwards. 

Kennedy Meeks was held to just five rebounds in the Feb. 9 meeting between the two rivals, well off his season average of 9.1. Hicks, meanwhile, has posted eight and seven rebounds in North Carolina’s last two home games against then-No. 14 Virginia and then-No. 7 Louisville, respectively. With star 6-foot-8 junior Justin Jackson on the floor as well, it will be difficult to get boards against a stacked North Carolina frontcourt. 

The Tar Heels' average rebounding margin of 13.3 leads the nation by more than three boards per game. The burden will fall on Tatum and graduate student Amile Jefferson, as well as the rotation of freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, to hold their own in the paint and prevent the Blue Devils from getting hammered on the boards. Read more »

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

After North Carolina spoiled Duke's Senior Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium last March, the Blue Devils will try to return the favor Saturday night in their regular-season finale in Chapel Hill. The Chronicle's Brian Pollack and Hank Tucker broke down all the storylines surrounding the next chapter of the Tobacco Road rivalry.

0:33—What is on the line Saturday for Duke's seeding in next week's ACC tournament

2:02—Why freshman Frank Jackson will start ahead of Grayson Allen in Chapel Hill Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. North Carolina

After a home win Tuesday night against Florida State, Duke is just a victory away from a double bye in next week's ACC tournament. But to earn it, the Blue Devils will have to knock off No. 5 North Carolina on the road—something Duke has done in four of its last five visits to Chapel Hill. As rebounding will likely be a key part of the Tobacco Road rivalry once again, The Blue Zone takes a look at a pair of big men who could sway the contest in their team's favor.

Duke: Forward Amile Jefferson

Since the Philadelphia native suffered a right-foot bone bruise in mid-January, he has yet to get entirely back on track from an offensive perspective. Jefferson scored in double figures just three times between Jan. 21 and last Saturday, but found his groove against the Seminoles. Shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the field—something he had never done on six or more field-goal attempts—the 6-foot-9 forward finished with 14 points and just two turnovers in 31 minutes.

Against a Florida State frontcourt which features two seven-footers, Jefferson was also crucial defensively. The graduate student tallied 11 rebounds, four blocks and a steal to lead a Blue Devil defense that was dominated for 56 points in the paint during the teams' first matchup earlier this season. Against the Tar Heels in February, Jefferson struggled to score—getting just two points at the charity stripe—yet managed to help Duke win the battle of the boards, 31-30, against the nation's best rebounding team. Read more »

Stock watch: Duke women's basketball caps impressive regular season, Jackson steps up for Duke men's basketball

Stock watch: Duke women's basketball caps impressive regular season, Jackson steps up for Duke men's basketball

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has rung again, meaning it's time to take a look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. The Blue Zone takes a look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market—Trending Up

Duke women’s basketball: With its destruction of Tobacco Road rival North Carolina 95-71 Sunday, Duke capped off a sterling regular season at 25-4, a record few predicted at the start of the season. The Blue Devils would not be in their position without the contributions of Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell, who were both named to the All-ACC first team this week. Duke now heads into the ACC tournament as the No. 3 seed after tying for second place, an improvement of five spots from last season. To top it all off, the Blue Devils crushed ESPN’s Handclap Hoopla Challenge that was released on ESPN2 during Duke’s 83-70 victory against Miami on Senior Day.

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Frank Jackson: With veteran Grayson Allen hobbled by an ankle injury, Jackson has taken full advantage of more playing time, as he started for only the fourth time in conference play Tuesday. The freshman guard proved his mettle against No. 15 Florida State, scoring a career-best 22 points, including an impressive spurt of 10 straight points to stretch the Blue Devils' lead to 19. Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

Amile Jefferson's double-double and Frank Jackson's career-high 22 points lifted Duke to a 75-70 win on Senior Night against Florida State Tuesday. The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Brian Pollack broke down the big victory and what it means for the Blue Devils heading into March.

0:26—How Amile Jefferson asserted himself from the opening tip in his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium

1:18—Why Tuesday's matchup in the paint went much differently than it did when these two teams met Jan. 10 at Florida State

1:40—Whether Frank Jackson can keep up his impressive play from the last week as Duke approaches the postseason Read more »

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

No. 17 Duke got back in the win column with a 75-70 victory against No. 15 Florida State on Senior Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday, with four Blue Devils scoring at least 14 points. Duke can now lock up a double bye in the ACC tournament with a win at No. 5 North Carolina in its regular-season finale Saturday night.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Control the paint: After the Seminoles dominated the Blue Devils inside in a Jan. 10 romp, outrebounding them by eight and finishing with 56 points in the paint, Duke matched Florida State on the boards and limited the Seminoles to 38 paint points Tuesday. With Florida State's army of big men ineffective offensively early on, the Seminoles went to a small lineup for most of the second half to chip away at a 19-point deficit.
  • Get to and convert at the free throw line: The Blue Devils attacked the basket much more aggressively than they did Saturday at Miami, where they attempted a season-low nine free throws. Even with the officials letting both teams get away with some contact for most of the game, Duke shot 14-of-19 from the line, led by strong efforts from Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson. Graduate student Amile Jefferson shot just 2-of-5 from the charity stripe and missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the second half.
  • Get Tatum back on track: Tatum's slump from the perimeter continued Tuesday night, but the freshman found other ways to impact the game. Although he needed 13 shots for his 15 points and was just 1-of-5 from long distance, Tatum grabbed nine boards, led the team with four assists and also had two emphatic blocks and two steals on the defensive end. The St. Louis native was reckless at times driving to the basket, picking up two offensive fouls and finishing with five turnovers, but it was an encouraging performance for Tatum after he managed just eight points Saturday.

Three key stats:

  • Amile Jefferson notches a double-double in 31 minutes: There were questions surrounding whether Jefferson would even play in his final home game after sitting most of the second half Saturday due to his lingering foot injury, but the 6-foot-9 forward started and provided a convincing answer against the Seminoles. He was perfect on six shots from the field and finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and he also protected the rim with four blocks to neutralize Florida State's size.
  • Duke forces 10 first-half turnovers: The Blue Devils got their hands in passing lanes a lot in the first half, heading into the locker room with an 11-point lead behind five steals that resulted in plenty of transition buckets. Duke scored 16 points off turnovers in the first half, and although Florida State only coughed the ball up twice after the break in a much cleaner offensive half, the deficit was too large to overcome.
  • The Blue Devils score two bench points: Almost all of Duke's production came from its starting five, as junior Grayson Allen came off the bench to play 16 minutes but was still clearly feeling the effects of the left ankle injury that sidelined him against the Hurricanes. Allen did not have an explosive first step to the basket on his drives and only attempted three shots. Freshman Harry Giles' role was also scaled down off the bench with just one rebound in five scoreless minutes.

Three key plays: Read more »

Halftime: Duke 34, Florida State 23

Coming off consecutive losses on the road, the Blue Devils desperately needed to get back on track at home with two top-15 teams on the slate to finish the regular season.

And through 20 minutes, they look like they have done just that.

On Senior Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 17 Duke leads No. 15 Florida State 34-23. Playing his last game in front of the Cameron Crazies, Amile Jefferson has been a force on both ends of the floor for the Blue Devils, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts to post eight points and eight rebounds. The Philadelphia native fueled a 9-2 run that gave Duke a 23-14 edge with 5:37 left in the period and has given the Seminole big men fits on both ends.

Florida State has just 12 points in the paint after racking up 56 in the teams' January matchup when Jefferson was sidelined. Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State

Duke will hope to stop its two-game skid when it returns home Tuesday night to face Florida State, which beat the Blue Devils 88-72 in January. Here are three keys for Duke to come away from Senior Night with a win.

Control the paint

The Blue Devils have struggled to defend the interior during ACC play. Duke was outscored 40-20 in the paint Saturday against Miami, and was dominated by Florida State 56-28 when the teams met in Tallahassee, Fla. Amile Jefferson will still be limited by a foot injury that kept him out of the teams' last matchup, but if he plays, his presence should make a difference.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils have been excellent on the offensive glass in their last two contests, outrebounding Syracuse and Miami by 12 and eight, respectively, on the offensive boards. In order for Duke to break out of its slump, the Blue Devils will have to take advantage of second opportunities and neutralize the Seminoles in the paint.

Get to and convert at the free throw line

The Blue Devils struggled to shoot the ball during their two-game road slump and converted on less than 40 percent of their shots during that span. In order to take pressure off the jump shooters, Duke needs to drive and get Florida State in foul trouble to get to the bonus early in both halves. The Blue Devils did an excellent job of this against Syracuse after struggling during the first half and made 11 of their 12 attempts from the charity stripe after the break. Read more »