CHAPEL HILL—After struggling through a tough conference season, the Blue Devils looked to upset North Carolina to gain momentum leading into the postseason.

But sluggishness struck Duke again, sending the Blue Devils home winless against the Tar Heels for the 13th time in their last 14 tries.

The Blue Devils fell 28-14 to No. 24 North Carolina Wednesday night at Memorial Hall. Although senior Jacob Kasper notched a routine win and Mitch and Matt Finesilver posted strong showings, the Tar Heels controlled the tempo throughout the entire Brawl in the Hall.

“We just didn't wrestle very well,” Duke head coach Glen Lanham said. “We had some tight matches, but we let those get blown over. You can't hold on to anything out here. You've got to go out and take it. A lot of times when guys try to hold on to wins, hold on to things, they get beat. We have to get over wrestling tentative in order to compete better.”

Although the Blue Devils (6-7, 1-4 in the ACC) got the early advantage with a Tar Heel forfeit in the 149-pound division, North Carolina more than made up the difference before the intermission.

The Tar Heels notched a decision, a major decision and a fall in the 141, 149 and 157-pound bouts. In all three matches, North Carolina (9-10, 3-2) gained early advantages through takedowns and limiting Duke solely to escapes. Through the three bouts, the Tar Heels notched 11 takedowns and never let a Duke athlete within four points, leading to an early 13-6 lead for North Carolina

Despite a slow start to the contest, the Blue Devils did not leave Chapel Hill without making the Tar Heels work for a win.

No. 10 Mitch Finesilver gave Duke its first win of the night in the 157-pound division against No. 15 Kennedy Monday, energizing the visiting team. Although Monday tried to keep the bout slow and limited Finesilver to zero points despite the Blue Devil’s aggression in the first period, the Duke wrestler got an early escape in the second to take the lead. A takedown from Finesilver followed by a stalling penalty on Monday brought the final score of the bout to 4-0, giving the Blue Devils their first decision of the evening.

“[Mitch Finesilver] wrestled tough, but he has got to separate, too,” Lanham said. “To me, that's not a quarterfinals match, that's a first-round match. You've got to separate, and you're going to see that guy again. Not just this year—he's a freshman, so you're going to see him around for a long time. You've got to put it in his head that when he's out there with you, you're going to wrestle him hard."

But just as the visiting crowd in the audience was getting fired up, North Carolina came back again to drain the energy from Duke.

In the 165-pound bout, redshirt junior Zach Finesilver held Josh McClure to a close contest, but came just shy of a takedown in the final seconds of the third period to fall 5-3. No. 18 Matt Finesilver fell in a similar trap in his bout, coming short 8-6 in the 174-pound division against No. 16 Ethan Ramos. 

Although Ramos led 4-2 entering period two, Finesilver took hold of the pace with an escape and a takedown to push the lead, despite multiple injury timeout calls from North Carolina. In the final period with the score tied 6-6, Ramos found the takedown in the final 20 seconds to earn yet another decision for the Tar Heels.

“[Matt Finesilver] wrestled tough,” Lanham said. “You've got an All-American fifth-year senior on the ropes. I didn't see the blood. A lot of timeouts, a lot of injury, a lot of this and that, I don't know. I don't train our guys to wrestle like that. You wipe your nose and you get out there and you wrestle. Obviously, it's disappointing. Nationals, they're not going to get away with that, and that's what I told our guy.”

Although a subsequent decision in the 197-pound bout and a fall in the 184-pound round clinched the victory for North Carolina, No. 3 Kasper looked as hungry as ever for his 100th career win in the heavyweight round. The redshirt senior notched two takedowns in a domination of the Tar Heels’ Andrew Gunning, coming just short of a pin and instead settling for a technical fall midway through the third period.

Duke returns to action Saturday at home against Old Dominion in its regular-season finale, two weeks before the ACC championship.

“We've got to find a way to put a better effort out on the mat, but that's all around,” Lanham said. “That's coaching, that's wrestling, that's everything. We'll be ready for [Old Dominion]. We're going to lick our wounds and be ready to compete.”