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There was no bonfire on Main West Wednesday night.

Duke went cold late in the second half while North Carolina heated up, and poor shooting down the stretch ultimately extinguished any chance the Blue Devils had of upsetting the Tar Heels.

Led by Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson, Duke went up by as many as 10 points early in the second half. But North Carolina slowly chipped away at the lead, finally jockeying past the Blue Devils with just more than five minutes to go. Plagued by foul trouble and shaky foul shooting, No. 16 Duke (18-6, 5-5 in the ACC) could not mount a comeback and ultimately succumbed 79-73 to the No. 5 Tar Heels (21-3, 7-2).

"We caught Duke on a night when [their] shots weren't going in," North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. "We were very fortunate they missed some shots-that definitely helped us."

Up 50-45 with 12 minutes left, Josh McRoberts took the ball to the basket against UNC's Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough fouled McRoberts, and for a moment it appeared that McRoberts' layup attempt would fall for a potentially back-breaking three-point play.

But McRoberts' shot rolled around the rim and out, and the sophomore forward then bricked the ensuing two free throws. The misses set off a stretch in which Duke would make just 3-of-10 from the line.

Sharp-shooting Scheyer, who carried Duke with 26 points in 38 minutes, made just one of three after getting hacked on a three-pointer from the corner with 7:23 remaining and Duke up 57-54. And DeMarcus Nelson could not hit either attempt to tie the game at 64 with 3:44 left.

The Blue Devils still had other chances, but those misses from the charity stripe sucked the wind out of their sails as North Carolina's star players finally broke through Duke's high-pressure defense. The Tar Heels went 7-for-8 from the line over the final 31 seconds to ice the victory-their second straight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"I thought we played winning basketball and so did they-it's a game they won and our kids didn't lose," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The 3-for-10 from the free throw line hurt us.... For us to win this game, you have to hit those things."

Eighteen seconds after McRoberts missed the two free throws at the 12:06 mark, he also picked up his fourth foul of the game.

That brought Brian Zoubek off the bench to guard Hansbrough, and the Tar Heels immediately took advantage. Hansbrough powered past Duke's 7-footer to bring the score to 50-47. After a Scheyer two-point jump shot, UNC once again fed Hansbrough. This time Duke's defense collapsed on the UNC big man, and Hansbrough rifled a pass out of the post to guard Wes Miller, who nailed a three-pointer from the wing.

A minute later, Hansbrough's 10-foot baseline jumper brought the score to 52-52, the first tie since the opening tip. Over the next four and a half minutes, the lead would bounce back and forth until Reyshawn Terry's fast-break dunk gave the Tar Heels the lead for good.

"They are very, very talented, and the depth that they have means that they never take a break," Krzyzewski said. "So when they're playing like that you have to be incredibly resilient, and I thought our guys were."

Hansbrough scored six points over the final 3:20, and North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson made up for a slow start by knifing past Greg Paulus for a three-point play with 1:46 to go that put the Tar Heels up 70-63. With Duke still lurking, Lawson spun through two Blue Devil defenders to find the basket and put his team up 72-66 with 46 seconds left.

Duke's comeback attempt over the final minute proved fruitless, as Scheyer watched the final 30 seconds from the bench after fouling out.

"It hurts-it hurts a lot," Scheyer said. "We were up a lot of the game, and it just comes down to our execution down the stretch and doing the right thing. We let it slip away."

Scheyer returned to the starting lineup after being removed for the Florida State game, but his presence on the court from the outset was hardly the only surprise. Captains McRoberts and Nelson began the game on the bench in favor of a lineup that featured Paulus, Scheyer, Henderson, Zoubek and Dave McClure.

The move paid off, as Duke jumped out to an early lead that settled at 39-34 at the half.

The Tar Heels were paced by freshman forward Brandan Wright, who scored 19 points and pulled down nine boards. Duke held Wright and Hansbrough to just 12 combined points in the first half, but they broke loose in the second with McRoberts in foul trouble.

UNC proved to be too much in the end, as Duke lost a close ACC contest for its third consecutive game. With an away game against Maryland looming Sunday, the Blue Devils have little time to ponder what might have been Wednesday.

"We're playing a little better," Paulus said. "We're playing hard, and sometimes it doesn't result in a win. We have to keep remembering this feeling so it doesn't happen again."


North Carolina out-rebounded Duke 39-33, including 22-14 in the second half.... Paulus had no turnovers, but the Blue Devils finished with 16 on the game with McRoberts giving it up four times and Zoubek three-all on travelling calls.... Paulus also fouled out, picking up his fifth with 6.2 seconds remaining.... Henderson scored a career-high 14 points, while his high school teammate, UNC's Wayne Ellington, was held to four.


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