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And one: AJ Griffin's career game propels Duke to dominant win against cross-town rival UNC

Griffin is shooting 50% from three on the season, and that sharpshooting was on display against North Carolina.
Griffin is shooting 50% from three on the season, and that sharpshooting was on display against North Carolina.

After each Duke men's basketball game this season, check back here for the Player of the Game and more. Today, the Blue Zone breaks down the Blue Devils' massive 87-67 win against Tobacco Road rival North Carolina Saturday:

One player: AJ Griffin

It may feel like it’s beating a dead horse to wax poetic about AJ Griffin, but the freshman forward was electric in Chapel Hill. He shot 3-of-6 from downtown and 11-of-17 overall, leading the Blue Devils with a career-high 27 points and sending a rapturous Dean Dome into a dull hum. He was so dominant, in fact, that he more than doubled the tally of any of his teammates, including the double-double Paolo Banchero put up. Griffin tormented the North Carolina defense all evening, allowing his team to coast to a 20-point win behind his remarkable shooting from inside and beyond the arc and the occasional highlight-reel slam that quite literally silenced the arena.


Griffin has been steadily improving both his performances and draft stock in Duke’s last three games–slotting in most recently at sixth–and is remarkably shooting 50% from deep. The White Plains, N.Y., native has lit up the last week for the Blue Devils and a good game against the Tar Heels was the perfect way to cap it off.

One word: Ruthless

Within three minutes, the Blue Devils were up 11-2 against North Carolina. At one point late in the second half, their lead extended as high as 28. And, most impressively, Duke never ceded the lead nor let the game sit tied beyond the opening tip-off.

This was a ruthless performance in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last visit to Chapel Hill. No matter how each team is doing individually, Tobacco Road rivalry games are notoriously testy and tight, but the No. 9 Blue Devils never even let the contest get to the point where the Tar Heels posed a threat. Duke’s 57.6% mark from the field and 47.4% shooting from deep were a clinic in efficient offense and mercilessly tore North Carolina apart, leaving Blue Devil fans ecstatic and Tar Heel fans hoping for revenge next month in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

One stat: 50-46 all time

Saturday’s win cemented an impressive milestone for Krzyzewski, as Duke’s long-tenured coach earned his 50th victory against the noisy neighbors, securing an all-time winning record. To top it all off, this comes in a period in which North Carolina has hung five banners and held two legendary coaches in Dean Smith and Roy Williams.

It’s a very lukewarm take to call Krzyzewski’s time in Durham successful, and Saturday showed us why. Duke did its coach proud and earned him a landmark accomplishment, placing him firmly atop the Tobacco Road pedestal and ensuring the Blue Devils have (at least) one rivalry win this winter. Come March 5, we’ll see if another is added to that list.

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