If the first win over North Carolina earlier this season wasn’t enough to show just how far the 2013 Duke version is from their eternal biggest rivals, a second, much more dominant performance at Chapel Hill, led by Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, made everyone see the clear distance between the two teams.
Roy Williams has never lost a game, both as Kansas head coach and as North Carolina’s, on Senior Night. But after losing so many players to the draft, making up for it this season, while Duke stock up on one of their more talented lineups in a few years, was simply too much for the Tar Heels to match up with, getting swept by the Blue Devils for the first time since 2010.
It also shows just how far each team is planning to go in the NCAA tournament, and their intentions for March. North Carolina, 12-6 in ACC play, are probably just happy making it into the Tournament after being on the bubble for most of the season, actually improving after losing at Duke by 5 points, moving to a four guard lineup for much of the time. Duke won’t be the number one team in the country, but being a number one team is probably enough for them to feel pretty confident about themselves heading into the vital part of the season.
You want to be playing at your best going into the tournament and you can’t afford a loss at this point in the season where you’re questioning your lineups and what your identity is. It was the kind of win we needed going into tournament time.
The man who seemed to make everything different and more complete for Duke in the last couple of weeks is Ryan Kelly, who the Blue Devils are undefeated with when he’s in their lineup this season. Kelly scored only 8 points, while Plumlee had one of those tireless performances to lead the team (23 points, 13 rebounds) while Seth Curry couldn’t miss (20 points, 8-13 from the field) as North Carolina were completely the opposite on the other side.
It was over quickly; Duke started the game with a 14-0 run, averaging 1.27 points per possession en route to a 42-24 half time lead, enough to secure a confident 69-53 win. It was the worst offensive performance for North Carolina against Duke on a home game since 1948, when they were playing at Woolen Gym.
It’s hard to explain how a team simply gives up on the trying to attack the rim, settling for jump shot after jump shot, making only 33.9% of their field goals, as opposed to Duke who finished with 55.1% from the field.
Guys set screens for me and I was able to create some space to get shots off, keep the defense off balance, and I was feeling good to start the game. I wanted to come in and set the tone for my team that we could win in this environment.
North Carolina scored only 53 points, their second lowest production of the season, mostly due to going 1-14 from beyond the arc, its lowest 3-point shooting percentage in any game in the last 15 seasons. Duke had their third best night of the season from the field, and were having an easy time from close range, making 65.4% of their shots in the paint.
The biggest news coming for Duke from this game isn’t beating an arch-rival on the road, but beating a quality team, if North Carolina are indeed one, away from home. Before their visit to the Dean Smith Center, Duke were 0-4 against teams ranked in the top 100 of the BPI. Everything has changed since Ryan Kelly got back, all for the better.