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

<p>Vernon Carey Jr. burned North Carolina in the paint, but the Tar Heels controlled the lead in the first half.<br>
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Vernon Carey Jr. burned North Carolina in the paint, but the Tar Heels controlled the lead in the first half.

At the half, North Carolina leads Duke 44-35 behind a balanced scoring effort and superiority on the boards. Here are five observations from the first 20 minutes of play.

1. Making the most of it

With a roster snakebitten by injury, North Carolina has had to make do with limited talent at its disposal. For the first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels did just that by turning nearly every opportunity into a fast break. Taking advantage of Duke misses, North Carolina used its classic brand of turning rebounds into dead sprints, hoping to catch the Blue Devils still moving up the floor. To this end, the Tar Heels earned 11 points in transition and 18 points in the paint, coming out swinging early on.

2. Another day, another slow start for Duke 

Since the beginning of ACC play, Duke has struggled with slow starts. And even with the added energy of a major rivalry, the Blue Devils looked out of sorts for the opening minutes of play. Duke's shots couldn't fall as the Blue Devils tried isolation sets for Cassius Stanley and Tre Jones. And on the other end of the floor, the Tar Heels came amped to play, earning as much as a 10-point lead.

When Duke looked like it would get a much needed jolt from back-to-back buckets from Vernon Carey Jr., North Carolina transfer Christian Keeling lit the visiting team up with three straight mid-range jumpers, stamping out any momentum from the Blue Devils. 

3. North Carolina owns the glass

It goes without saying that the Tar Heels are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. However, even against Duke's size and length, North Carolina opened the evening putting on a clinic on the glass. At the end of the first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels snatched 22 boards, with Leaky Black leading the way with six.

4. Tre vs. Cole

At the top of the bill for the Duke-Carolina rivalry sits the highly anticipated battle of Anthony vs. Jones, and for the first 20 minutes, it did not disappoint. Although neither guard necessarily exploded off the stat sheet, the star guards went back and forth all evening on both ends of the floor. Jones managed to drop six with Anthony just ahead at 10, with both guards attacking the basket to try and generate offense.

No play better captured the battle of the guards better than a sequence with just under seven minutes to go. Anthony crossed his man and stepped in for the long two for a beautiful rainbow of a shot, only for Jones to respond on the other end with a gorgeous finger roll. With both players embodying the hearts and souls of their respective teams, expect this sort of play to continue on all evening.

5. Player of the half: Vernon Carey Jr.

One of the lone bright spots for the Blue Devils heading into the locker room was freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. Carey abused North Carolina's interior defenders with 18 points off 6-of-7 shooting. Although the young Blue Devil struggled to grab boards through the Tar Heels' dual big men, Carey's offensive output largely kept Duke afloat in the opening 20 minutes.

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