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Faster UNC charges by Duke

GREENSBORO — Duke finally got a taste of its own medicine Monday night.

During the weekend everything went right for the Blue Devils, who set both offensive and defensive ACC Tournament records in large part because of hot shooting and relentless work on the glass. Duke’s 6-foot-7 Alison Bales and 6-foot-5 Chante Black gobbled up rebound after rebound over the weekend, and the bigger Blue Devils stymied almost every drive into the paint.

But Duke had no such luck against a more athletic North Carolina team that simply ran around Duke’s bigs for countless second-chance opportunities. As a result, the Tar Heels had a 53-37 rebounding edge that proved the deciding factor in the Blue Devils’ worst ACC Tournament loss since 1997.

“We didn’t use our size all night—on either end of the floor,” head coach Gail Goestenkors said after the game. “We missed a lot of easy baskets on offense and did not do a good job boxing out.

“They pursued the rebounds on both ends. They were very much the aggressor on the boards, and the team that is more aggressive on rebounds is going to win the war.”

The second-chance buckets neutralized Duke’s once-stifling interior defense, which forced North Carolina into 3-for-17 shooting to begin the game. But the Blue Devils’ towering post players had trouble keeping up with the Tar Heels’ quickness on both ends of the court, and North Carolina climbed back into the game.

“They’re a very athletic team, so you can’t try to outrun them,” guard Jessica Foley said. “We’ve come up against them three times this year already, and we should’ve found some better ways to break their speed and to play smarter.”

Offensively the Tar Heels got their hands on seemingly every Duke shot, forcing the Blue Devils into 29-percent shooting in the second half, by far their worst output of the tournament. Defensively the Blue Devils could not regroup after letting the Tar Heels grab 18 offensive rebounds.

“We were trying to get them one shot and done,” forward Mistie Williams said. “They hadn’t been having a great shooting tournament, so we thought that if we stopped their inside that hopefully the outside would work, but they were getting rebounds. They were getting offensive rebounds, putting back [baskets]—they had us on our heels.”

Soon enough, those second-chance buckets got North Carolina open looks beyond the three-point line, where the Tar Heels shot an efficient 52.6 percent.

“I just kept talking to them about their intensity level and rebounding, just playing good defense and rebounding and when they got the ball just being aggressive,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “That’s what we were trying to do.”

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils failed to recapture the shooting touch that had propelled them to a combined 181 points in their first two games. With 19:26 left in the game, Jessica Foley had an opportunity to bring Duke within two of the Tar Heels with a wide-open three-pointer. The ball fell halfway into the hoop and bounced back out—a microcosm of the day’s offensive effort.

“We got some really good looks in the second half,” Foley said. “I had a few open shots, and the post players had some plays inside that we should’ve knocked down.”

That was an understatement. With just 12 turnovers, the Blue Devils were not particularly sloppy Monday, but Duke missed open look after open look as the Tar Heels’ lead continued to balloon.

Duke shot just 32.8 percent from the field, nearly half the 62.2-percent effort they used to set an ACC Tournament points record against Wake Forest just two days earlier.

With a No. 1 seed now in jeopardy, Duke awaits the selection committee’s verdict to see where they will play in the NCAA Tournament. But, regardless, this loss has Blue Devil fans asking which Duke team will show up in the NCAAs: the towering, dominant team that locked down both Maryland and Wake Forest over the weekend, or the flat-footed, cold-shooting Blue Devils who folded to North Carolina Monday night.

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