by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
With a 14-point lead over Duke at halftime, it looked like North Carolina would be making a statement to the rest of college basketball that the Tar Heels were back. But that statement would have to wait for another day, as Duke outscored North Carolina 50-30 in the second half for a 79-73 victory.
Leading the charge for the Blue Devils was Nolan Smith, who scored a career-high 34 points, including 22 after intermission, on Wednesday. Reserve guard Seth Curry’s 22 points also helped Duke avoid the upset on its home floor.
The Blue Devils 33 straight wins at home is the longest active win streak in the nation. In fact, North Carolina is the only team in the last 64 games to beat Duke in Durham, doing it twice.
While North Carolina didn’t get the win, it did enough to make the rivalry between the two schools relevant again.
“You talk about vintage Duke and North Carolina games, that was one of them,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the win.
Just a little different than last season’s 82-50 thrashing in Durham on March 6 in the regular-season finale.
“There’s no question this rivalry is good for the sport,” Singler said.
The two teams will meet again on March 5 in Chapel Hill, potentially with the ACC regular season title on the line. With so much young talent for the Tar Heels, it’s unclear which half of basketball showed the team’s true identity. Nevertheless, this is not last year’s North Carolina team again, and it will be back where it belongs in March.