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Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball completes regular season sweep of North Carolina

Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. combined to shoot 19-of-21 from the free throw line Saturday evening.
Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. combined to shoot 19-of-21 from the free throw line Saturday evening.

In a Tobacco Road rivalry finale that was not to be missed, Duke took down North Carolina 89-76 to complete the regular season sweep of the Tar Heels. The Blue Zone is here to give you three key takeaways, stats and a look forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

Duke claims the throne

For the first time since 2015, the Blue Devils are the undisputed kings of North Carolina. This year featured an unusual mismatch of talent for the rivalry—while Duke maintained its usual brand of success, the Tar Heels suffered through a never-ending skid that began when star guard Cole Anthony got injured in December.

The Blue Devils may have finished on top this season, but the rivalry will be back better than ever next year. If your television speakers weren’t blown out by the roar of Cameron Indoor Stadium, you probably were able to hear that the rivalry is very much alive on Duke’s side. On the other end of Tobacco Road, North Carolina fans are sitting in defeated silence for now, but that won’t be the case for long. With a 2020 recruiting class that is much more balanced and comparable to the Blue Devils, you can rest assured that the animosity between these two schools is going nowhere.

Senior Night send-off

When Duke students pitched their tents in January, they expected an unforgettable experience. What they never expected, however, was that the reason for the unforgettable experience would be graduate student Justin Robinson. For weeks now, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been increasing Robinson's usage, clearly grooming him for this very night. The son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson finished with a career-high 13 points, though you would've thought he broke 50 by the way the crowd reacted to his performance.

Cold Anthony

If anyone has seen the No. 2 overall recruit of the 2019 class, please call North Carolina. Against Duke Saturday evening, freshman guard Cole Anthony simply did not play to the level that was expected of him when he arrived in Chapel Hill, tying a season-low with nine points on 4-for-14 shooting in 39 minutes. 

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, junior forward Garrison Brooks was able to pick up some of the slack to keep his team alive, but that was never going to be enough to win this game. Every player misses shots and every player has off nights, but unfortunately for Anthony, his off night happened to be on the biggest stage in college basketball.

Three key stats:

Four blocks for Robinson

Robinson didn’t just impress on the offensive end. He was an imposing presence around the rim on defense, racking up half of the Blue Devils' eight total blocks. The merciless forward never let up, even stuffing Brooks under the rim with 11 seconds left in the game.

29-for-33 on free throws

A major factor in Duke’s victory was free throw shooting. The two greatest contributors were Tre Jones, who shot a perfect 10-for-10, and Vernon Carey Jr., who was right with him shooting 9-for-11. However, an honorable mention must go to Cassius Stanley, who finished a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.

Carey passes Zion in double-doubles

In the final game of the regular season, Vernon Carey Jr. notched his fifteenth double-double as a Blue Devil, which puts him above Zion Williamson’s fourteen, a number that includes Williamson's four double-doubles between both the ACC and NCAA tournaments last season. It’s a general consensus that Zion was and continues to be one of the most physically imposing players in basketball, so this stat should scare any center that is matched up with Carey for the rest of this month and beyond.

Looking forward:

The Blue Devils have played their last game of the season in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the excitement is only beginning. Although the ACC regular-season title eluded Duke once again, the team will have a chance to win a banner in the ACC tournament this week. Entering the tournament as the conference's No. 4 seed, the Blue Devils should still be playing with a chip on their shoulder and expect stiff competition for any and all of their three potential games.

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