The Blue Devils made 6 of 8 free throws the rest of the way. For now, they still sit tied for first in the ACC, and while they have a few problems to solve, coaching isn't one of them.
North Carolina knocked on the door, getting to within two points with 2:20 left and re-closing the gap to three points a little over a minute later after Duke had opened up a bit more breathing room. Grayson Allen leads the team in assists with 4.0 per game and Frank Jackson has also excelled recently at point guard for the Blue Devils. "Jayson was magnificent for them in the second half. I was nervous in the first half, but the second half, I got it all out of the way".
Duke rode the emotion of the night and dragged Carolina down in the 243rd meeting between the league rivals, surviving a UNC run in the second half that staggered the Blue Devils and left them on the verge of collapse.
There were 13 lead changes in the first half. When Duke seized a 72-71 lead, they never looked back.
"There's nothing like winning at home in a big game like this", Allen said. I saw Redick and remembered the way he used to face a lot of real hate, including fans bringing signs with erroneous gay slurs directed at him.
Carolina usually plays to its strengths and did not on this night.
Tatum's slam shook the Tar Heels out of their funk, though.
"We always pride ourselves in living in the moment", senior co-captain Matt Jones said. "We've gotta do a better job of that than we did tonight".
This is a surprising and massive development as the Tar Heels will be without their starting power forward for the first time this season. Duke caught fire from behind the arc, making 13-of-27 attempts from deep, while Carolina shot only 4-of-12 from behind the arc. Without him, Duke does not win against North Carolina. All of his 19 points came after the break, as the rookie helped deliver No. 18 Duke an 86-78 win over No. 8 UNC. The Tar Heels also have a strong post duo in Isaiah Hicks (12.8 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Kennedy Meeks (12.6, 9.4). The game was close all the way through, but whenever UNC threatened to take the top off of things, Allen was there with a three. "Especially with his height, quickness and skill level, he really has a good matchup every game". "I just feel better". We were hungry for the ball wherever it was. "And that's when we know the next possession we need to get the ball inside. I like to hear that". He is the best player in uniform, the most reliable offensive threat, a guy who was a national player of the year candidate before all of the hullabaloo for a reason. Allen triggered a three from out front that ripped the net, stretching the Blue Devils' lead to 80-75.
Injuries to players, and Coach K, forced the team to lose some of its cohesiveness. But the ways the young team showed maturity - player by player, in disadvantaged categories and with leading scorer Allen fouled out - continue an upward trend for Duke.