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

Tre Jones did it all for the Blue Devils in the first half.
Tre Jones did it all for the Blue Devils in the first half.

Here we are again, as Duke took on Cole Anthony and the Tar Heels for the second time in the last game of the season. The energy from the crowd persisted throughout the first half, as the Tar Heels would not go away despite the rowdy Cameron Crazies and the numerous highlight plays by Duke Saturday evening. The Blue Devils ended the half ahead 42-34 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Here are five observations from the opening period.

Back-and-forth affair

If Duke’s last matchup with North Carolina was too nail-biting for you, this may not be your game to watch either. Despite having the crowd on their side in the friendly confines of Cameron, the Blue Devils still allowed the Tar Heels to stay competitive for much of the first half. This may not have been the expected outcome, but any good rivalry game defies the odds. Duke must ride the home crowd momentum to pull away in the next period.

Senior spark

Seniors Javin DeLaurier, Jack White and Justin Robinson were honored pregame and received the starting nod in their last ever game on the Cameron court. Though the three aren’t what the Cameron Crazies are accustomed to seeing, the seniors did not disappoint. Robinson hit two 3-pointers in the period, while DeLaurier caught and finished a lob to help Duke put points on the board. Their early contributions helped put Duke in position to control the tempo.

Tar Heel trifectas

Duke’s halfcourt defense appeared sound and strong, forcing North Carolina into quick shots as the shot clock continued to be somewhat of a problem for the Tar Heels. However, North Carolina’s rushed long-range attempts continued to go in. This kept the Tar Heels in the game, as little to nothing else went right for their offense.

Quiet Cole

North Carolina leading scorer Cole Anthony, one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, put up just four points in the first half shooting 2-for-5 from the field, as Duke focused all its defensive efforts on the combo-guard. The Blue Devils threw double-teams and wall-offs to encourage Anthony to pass the ball rather than try and score himself. The defensive tandem of Jordan Goldwire and Tre Jones didn’t make it any easier for Anthony to find holes on the perimeter.

Player of the half: Tre Jones

Duke’s success, and failures, start and end with its captain, point guard, game manager extraordinaire. The Apple Valley, Minn., native looked for his shot early, and helped get the Blue Devils out to a hot start. Jones' 3-pointer near the beginning of the first half and his continual penetration in the paint opened opportunities for his teammates, and ignited his squad’s energy with lockdown defense on the opposite end of the floor. He finished with 12 points and four assists in the half.

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