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Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against North Carolina

North Carolina's Cameron Johnson leads all scorers at the half.
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson leads all scorers at the half.

CHARLOTTE—The Blue Devils got off to a slow start offensively in the ACC tournament semifinals against North Carolina, but cut a 33-20 deficit to a tie 44-44 game at the break. Here are five observations from the first half of play:

Player of the half: Cameron Johnson 

Johnson ignited an early North Carolina run with makes on each of his first three shots and shot 5-of-8 in the opening period. Johnson was lights-out from the perimeter, making a pair of triples, and he enters the locker room with a game-high 16 points. Johnson, like many sharpshooters, can be streaky, but Duke will need to do a better job of preventing open looks for him in the second half.

Back-to-back not affecting Zion

Coming off a dominant 29-point, 14-rebound, five-steal performance Thursday in his return from a knee injury, Williamson has been quiet in the beginning stages against North Carolina. The freshman phenom converted just two of his first five attempts from the field, but picked up the slack late and leads Duke with 16 points and six rebounds at the break.

Another strong start for Javin

With Marques Bolden sidelined by a knee injury, Javin DeLaurier gave Duke a lift out of the gate. The junior forward added five points and five rebounds in the first half and has helped the Blue Devils maintain a 20-18 edge on the glass. DeLaurier got out to a strong start with eight points against North Carolina last Saturday, but ended up being a nonfactor in the second half. DeLaurier may not be a factor in the second half this time either after picking up three first-half fouls.

Where’s Cam?

After an off night in the quarterfinals Thursday, Cam Reddish was again quiet in the first half against North Carolina. The Tar Heels slowed down Reddish in the opening 20 minutes after he lit them up for 17 first-half points in Chapel Hill last weekend. Reddish enters the locker room with just two points and three turnovers—two on charges—and will likely need to pick up the slack down the stretch.

Slow start for Duke

North Carolina spurted out to an early 33-20 advantage with the Blue Devils struggling from the field in the opening 10 minutes. Duke started a mere 3-for-10 and missed its first seven triples while the Tar Heels drained nine of their first 16 shot attempts and took control of the pace, but the Blue Devils fought their way back into it with a quick 10-1 run and tied it on a Williamson 3-pointer in the final minute. Duke enters the locker room shooting 48.6 percent compared to 47.1 percent from the Tar Heels.


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