DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke-North Carolina is rarely boring. Or quiet. Or one-sided.
Should we have expected anything less?
Playing with a sense of urgency rarely -- if ever? -- seen this season, the unranked Tar Heels gave second-ranked Duke another down-to-the-wire game in the rivalry before the Blue Devils prevailed 73-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
A quick look at the game:
Turning point: UNC led by as many as 10 points in the first half, and 33-29 at the break, but Duke took its first lead on a Seth Curry 3-pointer -- his first of the game -- with about 14 minutes left. That began a 13-6 run that included two more Blue Devils 3-pointers, giving Duke a 52-47 cushion. Curry extended the lead to eight points with about 5 minutes left, on another 3-pointer, and kept it there with 3:16 left with two free throws. And while the Blue Devils (22-2, 9-2 ACC) hit key free throws down the stretch, the Tar Heels did not.
Player(s) of the game: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called reserve guard Tyler Thornton the "hero" of the game, finishing with 9 points but also coming up with some key assists and an important tip-out. Mason Plumlee finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Duke, and Quinn Cook scored 18 as well. UNC’s P.J. Hairston, making his second start of the season, led the Tar Heels (16-8, 6-5) with 23 points.
Etc.: The Cameron Crazies wore birthday hats for Krzyzewski, who turned 66 on Wednesday. … UNC freshman big man Joel James sat on the bench in a black suit; he missed the game after suffering a concussion last week. Duke started a Hairston, too -- Josh Hairston (no relation to P.J.), in place of Amile Jefferson, although Jefferson started the second half.
Asked about his decision to go with a small starting lineup -- P.J. Hairston, a wing, for center Desmond Hubert -- UNC coach Roy Williams said he had been pondering it for a while.
“I started to do it four or five games ago, but everybody’s saying, ‘Well, you’re going to put P.J. in for someone else.’ But nobody knows my team,'' he said. "It’s popular to say who the hell is supposed to be in the lineup when you don’t know what in the dickens you’re talking about."
He said he doesn't know who will start this weekend.
Up next: Duke will play at Maryland -- the team it beat by 20 points last month -- on Saturday. That day, UNC faces Virginia at home; the Tar Heels lost in Charlottesville by nine points Jan. 6.