UNC’s Stout Defense Leads to a Second Half Victory Over the Duke Blue Devils

North Carolina and Duke never fail to put on a show in the Battle for the Tobacco Road. Part one of the two game series ended in a thriller tonight as the North Carolina Tar Heels battled back with excellent defense in the second half to steal a win from their arch-rivals.

The greatest rivalry in college basketball started off sloppy as Duke had five turnovers and two fouls, while UNC had three turnovers and three fouls heading into the first official TV timeout.

UNC had the 6-4 advantage earlier on but Duke took a 18-14 lead into the second official TV timeout. Early on, Rodney Hood was the star of the game with 11 points including a vicious dunk that tied the game up at six after the first break.

A Desmond Hubert dunk started what would be an 8-0 run for the Tar Heels. Leslie McDonald added four to his total while Kennedy Meeks got on the stat sheet with a layup of his own. UNC’s run gave them a 20-18 lead but that run was soon ended with Andrew Dawkins jumper. After another UNC turnover, Andrew Dawkins got the three point play on the other end. Dawkins capitalized on the free throw attempt and the Blue Devils had a 23-20 lead with 7:46 left in the half.

UNC was big on the offensive glass, but the turnovers and missed free throws continued, allowing Duke to extend their lead to five. With 3:36 remaining in the first half, Duke was up 29-24 even though UNC had the 17-11 rebounding edge. That 17-11 advantage for UNC was cancelled out by an atrocious 1-8 showing from the free throw line along with eight turnovers.

Duke took a 37-30 advantage into the half, led by Jabari Parker who had 10 points along with five points and two blocks. Rodney Hood added 11 while Quinn Cook and Andre Dawkins chipped in five points a piece off the bench to add to the scoring depth for the Blue Devils. Duke took solid care of the basketball in the first half, only turning the ball over five times compared to UNC’s nine turnovers.

The Tar Heels did an excellent job shutting down Duke’s three ball in the first half, and the Heels also commanded the glass, out-rebounding Duke 20-15. Leslie McDonald led all of UNC with 11 first half points followed by a diverse amount of scorers including J.P. Tokoto who had five.

There were 21 total fouls called in the first half, 12 on Duke and 9 on UNC, putting both teams in early foul trouble. Amile Jefferson had three fouls for Duke, while Rodney Hood, Tyler Thornton, and Marshall Plumlee all had two fouls a piece. For UNC, Brice Johnson had three fouls while James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald had two fouls. UNC struggled mightily in the first half from the free line, making seven of 14 attempts (50%).

The three ball began falling for Duke early in the second half. Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook both nailed one from beyond-the-arc to extend the Blue Devils’ lead to nine. With 15:41 left in the Battle for Tobacco Road, the Duke Blue led 49-40.

UNC battled back, cutting the Duke lead down from nine to six. With 11:37 left, Duke held a 53-47 edge but UNC was already in the bonus.

The Tar Heels defense started to come up big as the second half progressed, cutting the deficit to two, but Duke still had a 53-51 edge. Duke could not find the basket while UNC struggled to score as well, but the Tar Heels started chipping away.

The nine minute drought without a field goal for Duke ended on a Quinn Cook layup with 6:26 remaining in the battle. UNC continued to get to the free throw line, already in the double bonus, cutting Duke’s lead to one. With less than five minutes to play, Quinn Cook nailed a three extending the lead to four, but UNC was able to get back to the free throw line. Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Tyler Thornton, Jabari Parker, and Rodney Hood were all in foul trouble for Duke as time was winding down, while Brice Johnson, James Michael McAdoo, and J.P. Tokoto were in foul trouble for UNC.

A Leslie McDonald jumper gave the Tar Heels a two point lead after a Duke timeout. While driving to rack, Jabari Parker picked up an offensive foul, giving him four for the game. Marcus Paige connected on a jumper but then Parker nailed two free throws, keeping UNC’s lead at two.

Paige then went down the floor scooping in a layup, followed by two free throws from Nate Britt and a jumper from Leslie McDonald which sealed the deal for the Tar Heels. North Carolina storms back to beat the Blue Devils 74-66.

UNC out-rebounded the Blue Devils 43-30 and finished nine less fouls, committing 17 to Duke’s 26. Leslie McDonald, James Michael McAdoo, and Marcus Paige all finished double figures for the Tar Heels. McAdoo himself finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds along with his 10 points.

Duke only had five total assists tonight as a team, and struggled to come together as a team after their nine minute scoring drought.

Duke and North Carolina face-off in part two for the Battle of Tobacco Road on March 8th.

Image Source: Getty Images

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