No. 14 UNC's streak ended by No. 4 Duke, 93-81

Updated: March 9, 2014, 12:34 AM ET
Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. -- Marcus Paige knows the difference between being on a losing team and being on a team that lost.

At different times this season, No. 14 North Carolina has been both of them.

The Tar Heels' 12-game winning streak came to a decisive end Saturday night and their fiercest rivals were the ones to end it, No. 4 Duke beating them 93-81.

But the vibe in the locker room wasn't anything like it was the last time North Carolina lost -- when a Jan. 20 defeat at Virginia gave the Tar Heels a 1-4 start to Atlantic Coast Conference play.

"I definitely remember being 0-3 and 1-4 (in the league), and that feeling is not going through this locker room," Paige said. "We know we still have a chance to make some noise later on, and this isn't going to change that."

Paige -- who led UNC's second-half comeback two weeks ago -- finished this one with 24 points, while Brice Johnson had 15 and James Michael McAdoo added 13 for the Tar Heels (23-8, 13-5).

They shot nearly 60 percent -- their highest in a loss since 1986 -- but couldn't overcome their disadvantage on the glass and now are locked into the No. 4 seed in the league tournament.

North Carolina's previous three wins were by a combined seven points.

"It's hard to realize you're starting to slip with your level of play when you keep winning," Paige said. "Maybe this is a wakeup call to show us that the last three or four games our effort level and our execution have gone down a little bit. Now that will hit home for us."

Freshman phenom Jabari Parker scored a season-high 30 points and Rodney Hood added 24 points to help Duke (24-7, 13-5) clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Duke never trailed, shot 51 percent -- 57 percent in the second half -- and dominated the ACC's best team on the glass, outrebounding North Carolina 34-20 -- the Tar Heels' fewest in a game since 1987.

"I think at the end of the day, it just came down to our want-to against their want-to, and it just wasn't there -- the sense of urgency," McAdoo said.

Leslie McDonald added 12 points for North Carolina.

The Tar Heels were denied their fourth win over a top-five team, but they briefly made things tense in the final minutes when Paige converted a four-point play to make it 81-73 with 2:50 left.

But the point guard missed 3s on the next two possessions -- with Parker blocking the second of those with 2½ minutes left.

Quinn Cook hit two free throws, Amile Jefferson added another and Parker hit two foul shots with 2:03 left to push the lead to 86-73 and effectively end it.

Cook finished with 11 points and Rasheed Sulaimon added 10.

And in what might have been his finale at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Parker put on quite a show.

"It's hard to say what `it' is," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, referring to an intangible quality Krzyzewski had chided Duke for being without in its loss to UNC.

"But whatever the hell `it' is, Jabari found it," Williams added.

Parker hit 10 of his 17 shots, cracked his previous high of 29 points set last month at Boston College and showed off all the skills that have him as a likely high NBA draft pick -- should he decide to forgo his final three seasons of college eligibility and turn pro.

But he says he has time to make that decision.

"Mostly what I'm focusing on is to do as much as possible with these guys (during) my time here," Parker said.

Parker set the tone early by converting repeatedly around the rim, and he hit two of his four attempts from 3-point range -- including one from the corner that gave Duke its largest lead, 74-55, with 8½ minutes left.

"I just thought he had his best spirit to score tonight that he's had all season, because they're really good, and at times he just wasn't going to be denied," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And then, boom, boom, boom, you hit those 3s (and) that lead can go to double digits quick."

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Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap


Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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