DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Very few leads are safe these days against No. 4 Duke.
The Blue Devils have figured out how to come back, and that has made them an even tougher team to beat in their biggest games.
”When you have done it,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said, ”you feel like you might do it again.”
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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 to beat No. 15 North Carolina 92-90 in overtime on Wednesday night. It was their sixth straight win, and their ninth in 12 meetings in the series against the Tar Heels.
It was the third time since 2011 that North Carolina led by double figures at Cameron Indoor Stadium but left with a loss.
The Blue Devils also came back from a 10-point deficit with 14 minutes remaining to beat St. John’s last month for Krzyzewski’s 1,000th career win, and rallied from 11 points down with 13 1/2 minutes left to give No. 2 Virginia its only loss.
That’s after they went down big – and stayed down – in consecutive losses to North Carolina State and Miami.
”When we got down, we started playing tight,” senior guard Quinn Cook said. ”We started wishing shots in and not shooting with confidence. Against St. John’s, we just believed in each other and shot our shots. … (Against Virginia), ”Coach, he kept telling us, `Keep believing. It’s going to be an amazing win.”’
So was this one.
Cook scored 22 points while freshman Tyus Jones matched a season high with 22. The three freshmen who start for Duke had their customary big games: Jones had eight assists, Justise Winslow added 16 points and Jahlil Okafor had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
”It’s tough for this game to always live up to the hype,” Krzyzewski said. ”But I think (Wednesday night’s) game exceeded it.”
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.
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.”
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.
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