FINAL— Duke 67, North Carolina 81: By now you know how this game ended—we had to leave press row slightly early to get down to the locker room in time to interview an obvious crestfallen Duke team. We’re waiting on Roy Williams to enter the media room now. Check out dukechronicle.com tomorrow for our recap and analysis of Duke’s loss.
1:55 2nd Half- Duke 65, North Carolina 76: Andre Dawkins’s performance at the line epitomizes this game for Duke. Fouled by Barnes on a three point attempt, the sophomore sharpshooter missed all three of his free throws in what was likely Duke’s last shot at making this contest a game. With under two minutes to go and Duke down 11, the Tar Heel fans can sense victory.
3:07 2nd Half- Duke 63, North Carolina 74: At this point, it’d take a reincarnation of Jason Williams for Duke to win this contest. Kyle Singler continues to struggle on both ends of the court—he’s 3-for-14 from the field and had to be removed from guarding Harrison Barnes. For Duke fans and coaches alike this has to be an extremely disappointing effort from the Blue Devils.
7:21 2nd Half- Duke 59, North Carolina 71: There isn’t much positive that can be said about Duke’s play at this point, nor much negative that hasn’t been said. This continues to be Duke’s worst defensive performance in recent memory, the team still is struggling from the field, and the Blue Devils can’t keep any extended momentum when they finally do make some jumpers. If something extreme doesn’t happen soon, Duke need some serious help if they want to earn a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
11:26 2nd Half- Duke 54, North Carolina 64: Nolan Smith continues to keep Duke in the game, as he’ll be at the line for one free throw following the break. But Duke’s defense continues to struggle, epitomized by north Carolina’s last possession, in which Marshall drilled a pass right past Ryan Kelly’s head to Zeller for an easy layup.
Interesting quote from the radio announcer sitting to my left up in press row: “If Nolan Smith isn’t National Player of the Year there should be an investigation…. Jimmer Fredette couldn’t guard you or me.”
13:44 2nd Half- Duke 52, North Carolina 60: Miles Plumlee will start the second half in place of Ryan Kelly, a move that makes sense considering Kelly’s inability to produce on the offensive end thus far tonight.
According to the script, Duke comes out firing in the second half after a strong drive by Nolan Smith, a steal by Mason Plumlee, and a deep three from Seth Curry cuts the lead to seven. A layup by Singler cuts the lead to five, but Duke again fails to get down the floor defensively, causing Curry to commit his third foul on the much larger Tyler Zeller. Duke gets a break though as a Carolina player dribbles the ball off his foot out of bounds, but Duke can’t convert and instead a Singler turnover leads to yet another fast-break bucket.
Duke also finds itself in serious foul trouble, as Duke’s two best players tonight, Seth Curry and Miles Plumlee, both find themselves with three fouls. Kelly enters the game to replace the elder Plumlee, though. Kelly finally makes a shot, his patented 15-foot baseline jumper, to stem a quick Carolina run and bring the lead back down to seven.
The Blue Devil defense continues to let down the offense, though, as fast breaks continue to decimate Duke. On two possessions the inability of Duke’s bigs to get back on defense forced Seth Curry to guard Tyler Zeller in the post, which led to easy baskets for a confused Duke defense. Nolan Smith is keeping Duke in the game with aggressive drives to the basket and Carolina has cooled off slightly from the field, but Duke cannot win this game if its transition defense continues to be this atrocious. The Blue Devils find themselves down eight.
0:00 1st Half- Duke 39, North Carolina 51: Meanwhile, Duke is bringing out the best in Harrison Barnes, who has rediscovered his jump shot over the past couple weeks. The freshman has already eclipsed his point total in Durham a few weeks ago while continuing to frustrate Kyle Singler defensively.
The biggest problem for Duke though is the fact that the Tar Heels seemingly can’t miss a shot. Carolina is shooting 58% from the field and 75% from beyond the arc, compared with the Blue Devils’ 37 and 26.7 percent, respectively. The Tar Heels are making fade-away jumpers and finishing with contact, while Duke is missing layups and wide-open jumpers. Still, offensively the Blue Devils have been fairly productive, thanks mostly to Seth Curry’s hot hand and Miles Plumlee’s uncharacteristic seven points. Defensively, though, they’ve been atrocious. Kendall Marshall is 5-for-6 from the field, Harrison Barnes is 4-for-7, and role player Leslie McDonald is a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. Plus, not only are the Tar Heels making their difficult shots, but they’re also getting easy fast break buckets thanks to Marshall’s ability to penetrate and the Blue Devils’ seeming inability to get back on defense.
Duke will need a comeback on par with the last time they played the Tar Heels to get back in this game, which should be made much more difficult in a hostile environment. Remember, though, Duke has been a second-half team all season long, and this would be a much different game if even two of Ryan Kelly’s five wide-open three pointers had fell.
2:30 1st Half- Duke 35, North Carolina 44: Coach K takes a timeout after Marshall executes a dazzling spin-move, sinks a layup, and immediately turns to the crowd. Duke has been completely unable to guard Marshall in the fast break, which is decimating the Blue Devil defense.
3:40 1st Half- Duke 31, North Carolina 38: Whatever magical potion the Blue Devils gave Brian Zoubek lat year, it looks like Miles Plumlee might have finally broken into Coach K’s office and found some. Plumlee is playing an uncharacteristically clean game—making a free throw as well as the baseline jumper he so often takes but so rarely makes. Still, the Blue Devils have been completely inept at guarding the Tar Heel fast break, and the Carolina guards have been penetrating at will. At this point, fans should be concerned more about Duke’s lack of defensive fundamentals then their somewhat sloppy offense.
7:01 1st Half- Duke 23, North Carolina 29: Mason Plumlee might have just atoned for his two silly early fouls, as his hustle lead to a steal in the Carolina backcourt and the resulting Nolan Smith tomahawk jam. But the Tar Heels is answering every Duke attack with baskets of their own, this time via a Kendall Marshall three. Still, for a team that has been characterized by slow starts this year, the Blue Devils have to be quite happy with a back-and-forth affair at this point.
Mason Plumlee very nearly was called for his third foul, but again drew a charge. Mike Krzyzewski apparently found the bang-bang play a little too frightening, though, and immediately replaced Mason with his brother.
Carolina, however, just went on a mini-run of their own to lead into the under-eight minute media timeout. Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland both made rather impressive layups to stretch Carolina’s lead to six. Kelly, meanwhile, missed yet another wide-open three, and his confidence clearly appears shaken, as he has passed up on many of the mid-range jumpers that are normally the staple of his game. Krzyzewski might want to think about taking Kelly out of the game if he continues to struggle from range—Duke loses a major component of its offense if the Tar Heels don’t feel they need to guard Kelly on the perimeter. Continue reading