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

<p>Freshman phenom Paolo Banchero tallied 10 points and six rebounds during the first half.</p>

Freshman phenom Paolo Banchero tallied 10 points and six rebounds during the first half.

NEW ORLEANS—Let’s do this dance one more time. No. 2-seed Duke flew down to New Orleans to face off against No. 8-seed North Carolina Saturday in the Superdome for the first time in the NCAA tournament. We are through 20 minutes and so far, the Blue Devils lead 37-34. 

Wow.

There is something special about a Duke-North Carolina game. There is also something special about 70,000 fans yelling at the top of their lungs. How about when both happen at the same time? From the first time the Jumbotron showed head coach Mike Krzyzewski walking out of the tunnel to Paolo Banchero’s triple in the final 90 seconds of the half, it was clear that this installment of the rivalry was going to have a level of juice that it hadn’t ever seen before. 

Big men to the bench

Duke’s rotation has been whittled down to mainly seven players in the NCAA tournament, and the obvious downside of that is when the team gets into foul trouble. During the first 20 minutes, centers Mark Williams and Theo John picked up two and four fouls respectively, and forced Krzyzewski to go small for the last four minutes of play. Williams committed his second at the 15:19 mark, so John took the bulk of the playing time in the first half and racked up six points and four rebounds. Despite the production from John, Krzyzewski is going to have quite the juggling to do during the second half to keep his big men afloat. 

All out of Love

Sophomore guard Caleb Love has the ability to take over games (see his outings against Marquette and UCLA in the NCAA tournament). So far, this is not shaping up to be one of his better displays. Love missed his first field goal on a pull-up jumper and couldn’t connect on his next four 3-point attempts, finishing the half with just six points. While Love erupted for 27 points in the second half in his 30-point performance against the Bruins, sophomore guard Jeremy Roach has given him fits that don’t look to go away anytime soon. 

Threes don’t come easy in the Big Easy 

These two squads shot an almost identical mark from downtown throughout the season, and both are shooting well below their season average so far. Senior forward Leaky Black started the scoring from 3-point range in this one, and Duke missed its first two attempts from downtown until freshman star Paolo Banchero connected on one.  The odd stat of the night has been that the teams’ respective 3-point leaders in Manek and AJ Griffin only combined for zero threes on five total attempts despite each shooting well over 40% from deep. 

Player of the half: Paolo Banchero 

Surprised? Banchero has taken his game to a new level during the NCAA tournament and after missing his first two field goals, he drained Duke’s first three of the game from the wing. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds and although this wasn’t his most impressive box score line, the Seattle native had an imprint everywhere. He stripped Bacot in the paint to prevent a putback dunk and found an open Trevor Keels in the corner that led to a crucial layup. And for good measure, Banchero tossed in a rim-rattling dunk that the Cameron Crazies in New Orleans loved. 


Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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