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

Dereck Lively II (right) had four blocks in the first half to help Duke keep a one-point lead going into the locker room.
Dereck Lively II (right) had four blocks in the first half to help Duke keep a one-point lead going into the locker room.

Through one half of the first Duke-North Carolina matchup of the season, matters are as competitive and close as one would expect. Heading into the break, the Blue Devils have a slim advantage at 33-32.

Not too heavy to carry

If last season’s matchups carried the heaviest stakes, this one carries the heaviest baggage. A year removed from Mike Krzyzewski’s final bow in Cameron Indoor Stadium and, later, to college basketball, Saturday’s game bears, for the Blue Devils, the dual weight of avenging the past and introducing head coach Jon Scheyer to the future of the rivalry. But really, it’s just a game, one that the Blue Devils have played before and they will play again after. Though the night’s magnitude manifested itself in some ways, that was the attitude the Blue Devils brought, playing the brand of defense-first basketball they have all season.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? 

Few players have achieved supervillain status among the Duke faithful like Armando Bacot and Caleb Love, and for good reason. Love has never scored less than 22 points inside Cameron Indoor, and Bacot has become one of the most dominant players in the ACC’s recent memory. In case the Cameron Crazies needed a reminder of that, Love opened the game’s scoring with a three from the parking lot. On the next possession, Bacot stretched the lead to 5-0 with a slam dunk. Bacot finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Love shot 2-of-5 from the field en route to five points. 


The Blue Devils played aggressive man defense in the first half in an attempt to stifle a clearly energized North Carolina team, one up for the challenge of hostile territory. This saw Dereck Lively II matched up against Bacot, where he excelled, blocking two layup attempts on one early possession to give Duke a chance to catch up. Meanwhile, the backcourt tandem of Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor took on RJ Davis and Caleb Love, and Mark Mitchell faced Leaky Black on the wing. That left likely ACC Freshman of the Year Kyle Filipowski facing graduate transfer Pete Nance. Filipowski exploited a matchup seemingly of equals, working his way to eight points to Nance’s zero. 

Clean-up crew

Both teams showed up with solid offense and defense in their game bags. Mistakes, however, held them back from truly great halves. Filipowski alone turned the ball over three times, Nance twice, as the Blue Devils and Tar Heels tallied seven and five turnovers, respectively. Most of these were unforced errors. 

While aggressive defense was certainly a factor, it seemed that often, players thought too far ahead, perhaps falling prey to the pressure of the brightest lights. This manifested as travels on well-drawn-up plays, balls dribbled off feet and other mistakes that Scheyer and Tar Heel head coach Hubert Davis will look to rid their team of by the end of halftime.

Player of the half: Dereck Lively II

The former No. 1 recruit scored zero points in the first half. With how he was guarding the rim, who cares? Lively had four blocks in the first half, including two consecutive against Bacot, and all in crucial moments. He was lights-out defensively, not only working to contain Bacot, but locking down the perimeter on switches and directing traffic to make the Blue Devils’ scheme flow. Ultimately, other Blue Devils can handle the scoring; what Duke really needed in the first half was nothing less than its best defensive performance this season so far. Lively delivered that. 

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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