No. 4 Duke beats No. 15 UNC in roller-coaster, OT thriller
Back and forth they went, trading big leads, shots and chances to win both in regulation and overtime.
And then the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils found a way to send their fierce neighborhood rivals home empty again.
Quinn Cook scored 22 points, freshman Tyus Jones matched a season high with 22 and Duke outlasted the No. 15 Tar Heels 92-90 on Wednesday night.
"It’s tough for this game to always live up to the hype," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "But I think tonight’s game exceeded it."
In a thriller befitting college basketball’s most intense rivalry, the Blue Devils (23-3, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) let an early 13-point lead slip away and trailed by 10 with less than four minutes left in regulation before rallying for their sixth straight win this season, and their ninth in 12 meetings in the series.
The three freshmen who start for Duke had their customary big games: Jones added eight assists, Justise Winslow added 16 points and Jahlil Okafor had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson each scored 18 points to lead North Carolina (18-8, 8-5). Nate Britt pulled the Tar Heels within two with one free throw with 3.5 seconds left. He missed the second, Marcus Paige raced in and got his hands on the rebound — but Winslow grabbed it as the buzzer sounded.
"My teammates came to battle," said Paige, who finished with five points on 2-of-11 shooting. "They played fantastic the whole game. And I didn’t really give them anything."
Amile Jefferson scored 13 points for the Blue Devils, who went up 90-89 with just under two minutes left in OT on Okafor’s layup.
Cook gave Duke a two-point lead with a free throw with 31.8 seconds remaining. And when he missed the second attempt, he gave the Tar Heels a chance.
North Carolina milked the clock and worked the ball to J.P. Tokoto, whose short jumper from the left baseline hit off the front of the rim. The rebound went to Cook, who was fouled with 5.2 seconds left.
Cook missed the first free throw but made the second to put Duke up 92-89. North Carolina got the ball near midcourt before calling a timeout. Britt was fouled before the Tar Heels could even think about hoisting a 3.
Tokoto had 15 points, Isaiah Hicks scored 12 and Britt finished with 11 points, while Johnson added 12 points before fouling out early in overtime for the Tar Heels, who have lost four of five.
Britt put them up by 10 with less than four minutes to play with his knifing layup through the lane. And then the Blue Devils stormed back.
"It’s not like we drew up anything," Krzyzewski said. "When they came back, that was on them. We just said, `Play, man. Follow your instincts and play.’ And they did."
Jones scored nine straight points for Duke, and his driving layup with 27.5 seconds left tied it at 81.
North Carolina had possession last in regulation, milking most of the clock before getting the ball to Paige.
The preseason All-American took one dribble and tossed up a long jumper that bounced hard off the iron and into the lane — where a scrum ensued for the rebound, but no fouls were called.
Dean Smith played a big part in taking this rivalry to the national stage, and his presence was strong during their first meeting since his death earlier this month. Krzyzewski and Williams hugged while players from both teams put their arms around each other’s shoulders at midcourt for a poignant pregame moment of silence to honor Smith. Some fans wore T-shirts in Duke’s darker shade of blue that read simply: "Dean." "He might not have liked the result of the game," Krzyzewski said, "but I’m sure he liked the way both teams played."
Cameron went silent late in the first half when Okafor went down with an apparent left ankle injury after landing awkwardly on a hook shot. He briefly went into the hallway but was back on the floor with 45 seconds left before the break. He played all 25 minutes in the second half and OT. "I would think he’s going to play" Saturday against Clemson, Krzyzewski said, "but I don’t know that."
North Carolina: Tokoto had more points in this game than in his previous three combined. He had been 3 of 15 for 14 points in his last three games.
Duke: Okafor joined North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in 2006 and Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury in 1996 as the only freshmen in ACC history with 26 consecutive double-figure scoring games.
North Carolina hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Duke hosts Clemson on Saturday.