CHAPEL HILL - Duke fans have been waiting all season for the highly-touted freshman duo of Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus to live up to its billing and make the difference in a big game.
Paulus and McRoberts did just that against North Carolina Tuesday night.
McRoberts scored a career-high 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting and Paulus took charge of Duke's offense late, giving J.J. Redick just enough help to push the Blue Devils to victory.
"It looked like sometimes that Josh was the coolest guy out there," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We needed Greg to be that court leader. It's not easy."
Coming into the game, Tar Heel Tyler Hansbrough was considered the shoe-in for ACC Freshman of the Year. He will still likely win the award, but McRoberts got the best of Hansbrough during last night's game.
Just two minutes after the opening tip, Paulus took advantage of two UNC defenders focusing their attention on J.J. Redick when he hit a wide-open McRoberts under the hoop for an easy two-handed jam.
During Duke's run early in the second half, Sean Dockery tossed an alley-oop pass to McRoberts who was cutting baseline. McRoberts caught the pass in the air and slammed home a reverse jam.
"Josh was huge today," Redick said. "He's capable of doing that all the time, he's really talented. It's awesome to see for a freshman to step up like that in a game like this."
McRoberts provided more than just highlight plays, though. Despite playing most of the second half in foul trouble, McRoberts managed to play good defense and rebound when it was important.
McRoberts reeled in Hansbrough's second-straight missed free throw with 1:36 to go and was fouled by the UNC phenom while fighting for the ball. McRoberts, who has struggled with his foul-shooting all season, stepped to the line and nailed both attempts. His shots put Duke ahead 81-75.
Paulus, who turned the ball over several times early in the game, earned his chance to go to the line a minute later with Duke up just one. He showed no signs of nervousness and iced both.
"I missed an opportunity against BC," Paulus said of his performance during the Feb. 1 game in Chestnut Hill, Mass. "I went 1-for-4 down the stretch [on free throws]. It was a good opportunity for me to redeem myself."
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