UNC blasts Duke in regular season finale

What North Carolina’s 91-73 victory over Duke Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams proved is the Tar Heels can play a high-level game. But they’ve shown that before at home in wins over Louisville and Florida State.

What remains to be seen is if Carolina (16-9, 10-6 ACC) can carry over its play outside of the Dean E. Smith Center as the postseason begins next week with the ACC tournament. The Tar Heels clinched the sixth seed in Greensboro.

The Blue Devils (11-11, 9-9) fell to the 10th seed and will have to play in the tournament’s opening round on Tuesday.

What was clear from the opening minutes of the game, is that the Tar Heels were the more focused team that played with a sense of urgency. Had it been a de facto play-in for NCAA tournament consideration, the Heels appeared worthy of a bid.

It was a feel-good time for Carolina’s four seniors potentially playing in their final home game, but it didn’t start that way for forward Garrison Brooks. He injured his left foot one his first shot and headed back to the locker room just one minute into the game.

Brooks returned to the lineup with 13 minutes left and scored 14 points including two 3-pointers, which matched his total for the season.

Senior K.J. Smith, son of former UNC standout Kenny Smith, scored a basket. And Sterling Manley, who would be classified as a senior had he not been hurt all of last season, played for the first time in two seasons and scored on a lob for a dunk.

The loss could be the final blow to Duke’s NCAA tournament hopes. But UNC coach Roy Williams didn’t appreciate the crowd’s meager attempts at chanting “N-I-T” at the Blue Devils. On at least two occasions as the chant began, Williams turned to the crowd and waved his hands instructing them to stop.

Here are updates from earlier:

UNC finds answer to every move

The second half has been more of the same from the Heels. Whatever measure Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has tried to slow them down offensively, be it the halfcourt zone to start the second half or using a full court pressure, the Heels have adapted.

In one sequence, Matthew Hurt had a wide-open 3-pointer that he missed. Carolina got the ball in transition to its best shooter and Kerwin Walton knocked down a 3 for a 61-41 lead.

Carolina took its biggest lead of the game at 66-42 on Garrison Brook’s second 3-pointer of the game. Duke, which has not pulled closer than 13 points in the second half, scored six straight to end a UNC run, but now trail 70-52 with 7:22 remaining.

North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks (15) reacts after sinking a three-point basket during the second half against Duke on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks (15) reacts after sinking a three-point basket during the second half against Duke on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Heels lead at halftime

North Carolina leads Duke 42-26 at halftime. The Tar Heels have looked crisp offensively with 12 assists on 16 baskets. They’ve also gotten balanced scoring, led by Armando Bacot with 11 points, Garrison Brooks with nine points and both Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton with eight points each.

Matthew Hurt’s struggles against Carolina continued in the first half. Hurt, who leads the Blue Devils in scoring with 18 per game, missed his first four shot attempts before making his last two to total five points. In four games against the Heels, Hurt is 5-for-15 shooting for 12 total points in 52 minutes of play.

Hurt was the only one with problems. UNC held Duke to a season-low tying 26 points in the first half. The Blue Devils also managed just 26 points in their 80-73 overtime loss last week to Louisville.

All Heels early

North Carolina jumped out to a 20-point lead thanks in part to shooting 64 percent from the field. Forward Armando Bacot and one point had outscored Duke 7-4 through the first four minutes of the game. Bacot leads the Heels with nine points and his dunk with 9:21 left made the score 26-6.

The Blue Devils have looked all out of sorts offensively. They scored just three baskets through the first 10 minutes of the half. D.J. Steward’s four-point play may have awakened them from their slumber. His basket and free throw made the score 26-12 with 8:10 left.

Injured Brooks returns

UNC’s Garrison Brooks, making what may be his final home start went down just one minute into the game. Brooks made a short jumper and as he landed, fell to the ground. He was favoring his left foot on the trip down the floor and left the game at the first stoppage in play. Brooks stayed in the locker room for the next six minutes of game time, but emerged and immediately checked back in the game. Upon his return, he knocked down a jumper as the Heels took an 18-4 lead.

North Carolina’s Day’Ron Sharpe (11) reacts after a basket by teammate Armando Bacot (5) during the first half against Duke on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina’s Day’Ron Sharpe (11) reacts after a basket by teammate Armando Bacot (5) during the first half against Duke on Saturday, March 6, 2021 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Starting lineups

North Carolina is staying with tradition and will start seniors K.J. Smith, Walker Miller, Andrew Platek and Garrison Brooks. Junior Leaky Black will join them in the lineup, which is the first time it has changed in the past 13 games.

Duke will go with Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Wendell Moore, Jr., Matthew Hurt and Mark Williams for the eighth time this season. The Blue Devils are 4-3 with this lineup.

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source https://sports.yahoo.com/live-updates-unc-vs-duke-220000900.html?src=rss

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