FINAL— Duke 67, North Carolina 81: By now you know how this game ended—we had to leave press row slightly early to get down to the locker room in time to interview an obvious crestfallen Duke team. We're waiting on Roy Williams to enter the media room now. Check out dukechronicle.com tomorrow for our recap and analysis of Duke's loss.
1:55 2nd Half- Duke 65, North Carolina 76: Andre Dawkins's performance at the line epitomizes this game for Duke. Fouled by Barnes on a three point attempt, the sophomore sharpshooter missed all three of his free throws in what was likely Duke's last shot at making this contest a game. With under two minutes to go and Duke down 11, the Tar Heel fans can sense victory.
3:07 2nd Half- Duke 63, North Carolina 74: At this point, it'd take a reincarnation of Jason Williams for Duke to win this contest. Kyle Singler continues to struggle on both ends of the court—he's 3-for-14 from the field and had to be removed from guarding Harrison Barnes. For Duke fans and coaches alike this has to be an extremely disappointing effort from the Blue Devils.
7:21 2nd Half- Duke 59, North Carolina 71: There isn't much positive that can be said about Duke's play at this point, nor much negative that hasn't been said. This continues to be Duke's worst defensive performance in recent memory, the team still is struggling from the field, and the Blue Devils can't keep any extended momentum when they finally do make some jumpers. If something extreme doesn't happen soon, Duke need some serious help if they want to earn a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
11:26 2nd Half- Duke 54, North Carolina 64: Nolan Smith continues to keep Duke in the game, as he'll be at the line for one free throw following the break. But Duke's defense continues to struggle, epitomized by north Carolina's last possession, in which Marshall drilled a pass right past Ryan Kelly's head to Zeller for an easy layup.
Interesting quote from the radio announcer sitting to my left up in press row: "If Nolan Smith isn't National Player of the Year there should be an investigation.... Jimmer Fredette couldn't guard you or me."
13:44 2nd Half- Duke 52, North Carolina 60: Miles Plumlee will start the second half in place of Ryan Kelly, a move that makes sense considering Kelly's inability to produce on the offensive end thus far tonight.
According to the script, Duke comes out firing in the second half after a strong drive by Nolan Smith, a steal by Mason Plumlee, and a deep three from Seth Curry cuts the lead to seven. A layup by Singler cuts the lead to five, but Duke again fails to get down the floor defensively, causing Curry to commit his third foul on the much larger Tyler Zeller. Duke gets a break though as a Carolina player dribbles the ball off his foot out of bounds, but Duke can't convert and instead a Singler turnover leads to yet another fast-break bucket.
Duke also finds itself in serious foul trouble, as Duke's two best players tonight, Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee, both find themselves with three fouls. Kelly enters the game to replace the elder Plumlee, though. Kelly finally makes a shot, his patented 15-foot baseline jumper, to stem a quick Carolina run and bring the lead back down to seven.
The Blue Devil defense continues to let down the offense, though, as fast breaks continue to decimate Duke. On two possessions the inability of Duke's bigs to get back on defense forced Seth Curry to guard Tyler Zeller in the post, which led to easy baskets for a confused Duke defense. Nolan Smith is keeping Duke in the game with aggressive drives to the basket and Carolina has cooled off slightly from the field, but Duke cannot win this game if its transition defense continues to be this atrocious. The Blue Devils find themselves down eight.
0:00 1st Half- Duke 39, North Carolina 51: Meanwhile, Duke is bringing out the best in Harrison Barnes, who has rediscovered his jump shot over the past couple weeks. The freshman has already eclipsed his point total in Durham a few weeks ago while continuing to frustrate Kyle Singler defensively.
The biggest problem for Duke though is the fact that the Tar Heels seemingly can't miss a shot. Carolina is shooting 58% from the field and 75% from beyond the arc, compared with the Blue Devils' 37 and 26.7 percent, respectively. The Tar Heels are making fade-away jumpers and finishing with contact, while Duke is missing layups and wide-open jumpers. Still, offensively the Blue Devils have been fairly productive, thanks mostly to Seth Curry's hot hand and Miles Plumlee's uncharacteristic seven points. Defensively, though, they've been atrocious. Kendall Marshall is 5-for-6 from the field, Harrison Barnes is 4-for-7, and role player Leslie McDonald is a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. Plus, not only are the Tar Heels making their difficult shots, but they're also getting easy fast break buckets thanks to Marshall's ability to penetrate and the Blue Devils' seeming inability to get back on defense.
Duke will need a comeback on par with the last time they played the Tar Heels to get back in this game, which should be made much more difficult in a hostile environment. Remember, though, Duke has been a second-half team all season long, and this would be a much different game if even two of Ryan Kelly's five wide-open three pointers had fell.
2:30 1st Half- Duke 35, North Carolina 44: Coach K takes a timeout after Marshall executes a dazzling spin-move, sinks a layup, and immediately turns to the crowd. Duke has been completely unable to guard Marshall in the fast break, which is decimating the Blue Devil defense.
3:40 1st Half- Duke 31, North Carolina 38: Whatever magical potion the Blue Devils gave Brian Zoubek lat year, it looks like Miles Plumlee might have finally broken into Coach K's office and found some. Plumlee is playing an uncharacteristically clean game—making a free throw as well as the baseline jumper he so often takes but so rarely makes. Still, the Blue Devils have been completely inept at guarding the Tar Heel fast break, and the Carolina guards have been penetrating at will. At this point, fans should be concerned more about Duke's lack of defensive fundamentals then their somewhat sloppy offense.
7:01 1st Half- Duke 23, North Carolina 29: Mason Plumlee might have just atoned for his two silly early fouls, as his hustle lead to a steal in the Carolina backcourt and the resulting Nolan Smith tomahawk jam. But the Tar Heels is answering every Duke attack with baskets of their own, this time via a Kendall Marshall three. Still, for a team that has been characterized by slow starts this year, the Blue Devils have to be quite happy with a back-and-forth affair at this point.
Mason Plumlee very nearly was called for his third foul, but again drew a charge. Mike Krzyzewski apparently found the bang-bang play a little too frightening, though, and immediately replaced Mason with his brother.
Carolina, however, just went on a mini-run of their own to lead into the under-eight minute media timeout. Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland both made rather impressive layups to stretch Carolina's lead to six. Kelly, meanwhile, missed yet another wide-open three, and his confidence clearly appears shaken, as he has passed up on many of the mid-range jumpers that are normally the staple of his game. Krzyzewski might want to think about taking Kelly out of the game if he continues to struggle from range—Duke loses a major component of its offense if the Tar Heels don't feel they need to guard Kelly on the perimeter.
11:15 1st Half- Duke 17, North Carolina 18: Duke is turning to Seth Curry to stem the Tar Heel run in Chapel Hill much like the did in Durham, as Curry makes back-to-back threes to tie the game for Duke. Curry certainly looks to have regained the confidence he didn't have against Virginia Tech, evidenced by his newfound tendency to attack the basket off the dribble, just then drawing a Carolina foul.
Nolan Smith, meanwhile, is also starting to show his Carolina-form, dishing a sweet pass to Miles Plumlee for a thunderous slam. After a long banked-in two from Dexter Strickland, a shot that should bring up frightful memories for Blue Devil fans, Curry sinks another three for his third such basket of the night. At the second media timeout, Duke is down only one.
Of note thus far is the inspired play by Miles Plumlee. The junior has four points and four rebounds, and actually should have had another basket if not for an travel after Plumlee took one dribble too many following a nice Smith pass. Also keep an eye on Miles' younger brother, who has just returned to the game despite two fouls as the Blue Devils' only big man. With John Henson seeing limited playing time thus far Duke is taking advantage by placing both Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry on the floor to spread out the Tar Heels, and at least on the offensive end it has worked thus far.
15:57 1st Half- Duke 4, North Carolina 7: Duke knew it couldn't get out to a slow start in the Dean Dome, but unfortunately they have—the Blue Devils got three wide-open looks from three (two for Ryan Kelly and one for Nolan Smith), but none of them fell. Meanwhile, even with three walk-ons on the court the Tar Heels took a 3-0 lead.
The first sub of the night is Miles Plumlee for Kelly—not surprising since Kelly is now 0-for-3 from three, all of them being wide-open shots. Kyle Singler puts Duke on the board with two free throws however, and Kelly quickly returns after Mason Plumlee picks up his second foul under three minutes into the contest, both of them on ill-advised decisions by the sophomore.
At the first media-timeout the Tar Heel fans are in a frenzy, and rightfully so—the Blue Devils are missing a plethora of open shots, and Nolan Smith just threw the ball out of bounds after jumping into the air without a plan. In fact, Duke's only field goal thus far has come from a surprising source—Miles Plumlee on a putback.
The story thus far, though, is the younger Plumlee's two quick fouls. Foul trouble has plagued both Plumlee's throughout the season, and now Duke will be without its best rebounded for a large portion of this first half. Expect the Tar Heels to put the ball in the hands of Zeller and Henson in the post quickly.
20:00 1st Half- Duke 0, North Carolina 0: "Jump Around" is apparently to North Carolina as "Every Time we Touch" is to Duke—the student section is in a frenzy as the song plays and the ball is prepared to be tossed. It just got loud in here, and the game is underway.
20:00 1st Half- Duke 0, North Carolina 0: Duke's starters are predictably greeted with boos, but are as expected. Then the lights dim as the Carolina starters prepare to be announced—D.J. Johnston, Justin Knox, Kendall Marshall, Van Hatchell, Daniel Bolick. For as much head as Roy Williams gets, even Duke fans have to give him credit for sticking with tradition and starting his senior walk-ons in this big game. Indeed, only one of the normal Tar Heels starters, Marshall, will be on the floor for the tip.
PREGAME: The difference between Duke and North Carolina crowds—Casey Peters received a thunderous ovation on his senior night a few days ago. The Tar Heel walk-ons just received what can best be described as a relatively loud "golf-clap" from the Dean E. Smith Center. Take that for what you will. In fact, the boo as Duke walked on the court was louder than the ovation even Knox received.
PREGAME: It's technically senior night for the Tar Heels tonight—despite the fact that they have no scholarship seniors on the team. But they are honoring graduate-student transfer Justin Knox as a senior, as they probably should—had Knox not transferred to North Carolina following the defection of the Wear twins, the team would've had no forwards on its bench. The three walk-ons are also reminiscing on the big screen about doing the "dirty work" for the team. A rather subdued senior night, but still, nice to see the walk-ons for any team get their time in the spotlight.
Five minutes until tipoff.
PREGAME: Welcome to the Dean Dome, everyone, and more importantly to the last regular-season live blog of the year! I'll give you all a moment to compose yourself.
But, yes, I'm sitting in the Press Box in the Dean E. Smith center as the clock ticks down towards one of the bigger Duke-UNC games in recent memory. There's a lot on the line here, folks. The winner will claim the ACC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. A win for the Blue Devils puts them one step closer to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the Tar Heels could still use a statement victory to lock up a top seed themselves. Buckle your seatbelts.
Some interesting things to note from the UNC side: graduate student Justin Knox will start tonight, continuing coach Roy Williams' tradition of starting players in their last game in Chapel Hill. He has also traditionally started walk-ons in these type of games, but he refused to divulge whether he'd continue that tradition as well with three senior walk-ons on the team.
We're 15 minutes to tip-off folks—stay tuned.