No. 3 Duke defeated No. 19 North Carolina Saturday night at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill 84-77 to finish off a 28-3 regular season. Once again, Tyus Jones stepped up late in the game and the Blue Devils overcame both early foul trouble on the part of Justise Winslow and a dazzling performance by Marcus Paige to sweep the Tobacco Road rivalry, pending postseason action.
Revisiting the three keys to the game:
- Get production from the bench: Duke’s bench only features three scholarship players, but the Blue Devils certainly did not capitalize in this realm for much of the game. The Tar Heel backups outscored Duke’s 27-10, with the three Blue Devil reserves only cashing in for one first-half point. Junior forward Amile Jefferson played solid second-half defense, but his three points in 31 total minutes were subpar, and the Duke bench shot just 2-of-10 without accounting for a single steal or assist. But despite being largely ineffective, the Blue Devils that didn't start were instrumental in sparking Duke's 8-0 run with Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor on the bench that changed the complexion of the game and came up big when it mattered most.
- Make a dent on the boards: If a tie counts for a dent, then credit Duke for matching North Carolina’s 32 total rebounds in the game, doubling the Tar Heel’s six second chance points and outscoring a home squad that relies so heavily on inside scoring 32-28 in the paint. Duke benefited not from a dominating presence by big-man Jahlil Okafor, but rather from a balanced approach, featuring five players post at least four rebounds and every player posting at least two.
- Don’t turn the ball over: Duke turned the ball over 10 times compared to North Carolina’s 16—including 11 in the second half alone—and the Blue Devils scored a decisive 21 points off of these turnovers compared to the Tar Heels’ 11. Interestingly, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams’ team still managed to outscore Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 16-9 on fast break opportunities, but the Blue Devils' edge in the turnover battle was a major part of the second half.
Three Key Plays:
- 13:55 remaining, second half: Tyus Jones’ second assist of the half results in Okafor’s second basket of the half. The play jump-starts a 14-2 run that takes Duke from down seven to up five, silencing a sold-out Dean Dome and giving the Blue Devils a lead that they never give back.
- 6:43 remaining, second half: After leaving the game less than seven minutes earlier with back spasms, Tyus Jones nails a pull-up three-pointer after his defender goes under a screen. He then steals a J.P. Tokoto pass, brings the ball up the court, resists a three-point attempt and feeds an uncontested Quinn Cook for the trey. Duke turns a three-point lead into a nine-point advantage in just 22 seconds.
- 0:35 remaining, second half: With a Paige three-pointer pulling the Tar Heels within five and an Okafor missed free throw quickly giving North Carolina the ball back, Joel Berry II has a chance to bring his team within striking distance. Instead, he forces an unnecessary pass that gives Tyus Jones the ball and two subsequent free throws, all but sealing the game.
Three Key stats:
- Duke starts the first half 5-of-5 from the field, finishes it 5-of-25. With the Blue Devils going scoreless over a 6:57 stretch, the Tar Heels reversed a 18-10 deficit into a 33-31 halftime advantage that put them in the driver’s seat for much of the contest.
- Duke outscores North Carolina 21-13 from the charity stripe. With Paige leading the way, the Tar Heels finished 13-of-13 on foul shots. However, despite committing only four fewer fouls, the Blue Devils take twice as many free throw shots as their hosts, and Tyus Jones finished 12-of-12 from the line himself.
- North Carolina closes the first half shooting 2-of-12. The Tar Heels could not fully take advantage of Duke’s paltry shooting at the end of the first half, getting outscored 7-5 to head to the locker room after outscoring the Blue Devils 18-6 during the previous eight minutes. Had North Carolina continued its sharp-shooting ways, the game’s outcome might well have been different.
And the Duke game ball goes to... Tyus Jones
The Apple Valley, Minn., native has saved his best for the biggest stages, and tonight’s contest was no exception. Jones scored a career-high 24 points, to go along with six rebounds, seven assists, 50 percent three-point and field-goal percentages, a 12-of-12 clip from the foul line, and just one turnover. With Winslow sitting on the bench with four personal fouls for much of the second half, Jones’ injury scare could have spelled doom for Duke. Instead, the point guard responded by checking back in and scoring 11 of Duke’s 18 points during a late six-minute stretch to finish the regular season on another high note.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
And the North Carolina game ball goes to… Marcus Paige
The junior guard made up for a poor outing at Cameron Indoor Stadium with 23 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting, five assists, three steals and a team-high 25 player efficiency rating. Time and again, Paige kept the Tar Heels in the game with big shots and automatic free-throw shooting, but he lacked support from the supporting cast. Still, if the Preseason ACC Player of the Year plays like he did Saturday night and North Carolina's big man play to their potential, the Tar Heels will be a tough out in the postseason.