No matter what kind of season either team is having, Duke vs. North Carolina is always one for the books. North Carolina jumped out to an early lead, but with the help of Wendell Moore Jr. and company, the Blue Devils continued to stay afloat throughout the period, with the Tar Heels holding a narrow 41-39 edge entering the break. Here are five observations from the first half:
Blue Devil fans are used to head coach Mike Krzyzewski switching up the lineup from game to game, leaving everyone on their toes, including some of Duke’s players. However, Krzyzewski still caught everyone off guard by deciding to take Jalen Johnson out of the starting lineup for tonight’s matchup. Duke’s offense struggled in the beginning of the half, and Johnson’s absence definitely did not help.
Careless with the ball
The Blue Devils’ struggles with taking care of the ball did not elude them in the first half against North Carolina. Both Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward tried their best to get into the lane to jumpstart the offense, but could not find openings, throwing the ball away on their first couple plays. Duke ended up turning the ball over nine times in the period, making it difficult to keep up with the Tar Heels.
Freshman Mark Williams replaced Johnson in the starting lineup, and immediately made an impact on the defensive side of the ball and on the boards. Despite North Carolina’s size advantage with the combo of Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot, Duke ended up winning the rebound battle. This was Duke’s biggest positive of the first half, and was what kept it in the game.
It seemed as though Duke took a 5-Hour Energy somewhere near the eight-minute mark in the first half. Roach hit two 3-pointers in a row, followed by a Johnson fadeaway jumper which helped the Blue Devils come back from a doubled-digit deficit to take the lead. North Carolina bounced back, however, regaining the edge entering the locker room.
Player of the half: Wendell Moore Jr.
Moore has not had the best season by any means. However, the sophomore has seemed to find his role in recent games. The Charlotte native seemed to be the only Blue Devil who had any confidence and awareness in the first half, scoring eight points and securing four rebounds. Moore seemed to score at just the right times, keeping Duke in striking distance.
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