No. 3 Duke holds off No. 19 North Carolina 84-77
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Tyus Jones and third-ranked Duke kept the pressure on North Carolina, scoring over and over until the Blue Devils had finally wrested away control of a tight rivalry game.
It was a show of both their toughness as well as the offensive potential of a team carrying plenty of momentum into the postseason.
Jones scored 17 of his season-high 24 points in the second half and the Blue Devils shot 59 percent after the break to beat the 19th-ranked Tar Heels 84-77 on Saturday night.
"They believe in me to have the ball in my hands and to be the point guard of this team, and Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) believes in me," the freshman said. "We believe in one another, and if you kick it to somebody, one of your brothers, you trust them to make the shot and they trust in me."
Quinn Cook added 20 points for Duke (28-3, 15-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which capitalized on a couple of key turnovers by the Tar Heels (21-10, 11-7) to finally get a fragile hold on a road game in which neither team could get many second-half stops.
The latest rivalry renewal was a competitive fight throughout, with UNC shooting 58 percent after halftime but unable to catch up once Duke finally got the game turned with about 6 minutes left on the way to its 11th straight win.
"Either team was deserving of winning," Krzyzewski said. "It's like one play or one little spurt."
Marcus Paige matched his season high with 23 points and hit five 3-pointers to lead the Tar Heels, while Brice Johnson added 17.
The Tar Heels had let one get away in the first meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes of regulation before falling 92-90 in overtime. Paige had said that raised the stakes even more for this one, only to see Jones take over late Saturday just as he did before.
Duke shot miserably to start the game, trailed 33-31 at halftime and faced a seven-point deficit with about 14 minutes left. But a 14-2 run erased the gap, then Jones and Cook teamed up to spark the key stretch.
Jones first hit a 3 after a UNC turnover, then fed Cook for another one on the next possession again, after a turnover to suddenly give Duke a 68-59 lead with 6:19 left.
It was just enough to tip control in a tight game.
"We rushed a couple shots, a couple passes got a little errant," Paige said, "and they capitalized on every single one of those."
UNC got the deficit to five three times in the final minute but couldn't complete the comeback. The Tar Heels had 11 second-half turnovers.
"We played pretty doggone well except for a 4- or 5-minute stretch there," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I've got to do a better job of getting them to focus. You can't have those stretches there against a really good basketball team."
Duke: Jones finished with six rebounds and seven assists while hitting all 12 of his free throws. ... Duke went nearly 10 minutes between baskets at one point in the first half and shot 33 percent before the break but scored 53 second-half points. ... Duke went 9 for 25 from 3-point range.
UNC: Freshman Justin Jackson scored 14 points. ... UNC shot 8 for 16 from 3-point range and 13 for 13 from the line. ... Kennedy Meeks managed two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
The Tar Heels again did a solid job defending star freshman big man Jahlil Okafor, who finished with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting. He had 12 points in the first meeting while playing through an ankle injury.
The teams had another moment of pregame rivalry respect.
After gathering together at midcourt to honor the late Dean Smith before the first meeting, UNC honored Krzyzewski for reaching 1,000 career wins this season. There were a few early boos that were quickly drowned out by cheers and applause for Krzyzewski at midcourt, something Williams had said Friday he hoped the crowd would do.
"What happened in Durham and what happened here were great examples of (how) an intense rivalry should have intense respect," Krzyzewski said.
Things got a little chippy when Duke freshman Justise Winslow was called for an offensive foul late in the first half with a karate-style kick to Johnson's midsection on a drive. Then, early in the second half, he picked up a flagrant foul when he tripped Jackson during a scramble for a rebound.
Duke: begins play in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
UNC: begins play in the ACC tournament second round Wednesday.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap