Blue Devils held to 13 first-half points

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina got to loose balls quicker than top-ranked Duke, fought harder for rebounds and dug in with gritty, physical defense.

With both teams struggling to make shots, those simple efforts were enough to end nearly five years of misery in this Tobacco Road rivalry.

"I thought they played tougher," Blue Devils coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I thought they were the aggressor for the most part, and I thought that made a big difference."

Leah Metcalf had a pair of clutch baskets and Ivory Latta sealed it with two free throws in the final seconds, helping the Tar Heels (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) hold off Monique Currie and Duke 56-51 on Monday night.

North Carolina (15-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series by limiting Duke (18-2, 4-1) to a season-low point total, which included only 13 in the first half. That was two more than the school record set against Maryland in the 1981 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

"I've been doing this a long time, and wins and losses are wins and losses," Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "As a coach, I look at how we play. They're a great team, and this is a great victory for us, but it's not life or death."

The loss ended the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games, and it was the first win for the Tar Heels in 20 tries against a top-ranked team.

"Their pressure really bothered us, their traps," Goestenkors said. "We didn't do a good job adjusting. I give all the credit in the world to their defense."

Latta led North Carolina with 13 points, and Nikita Bell and La'Tangela Atkinson added 12 apiece.

Currie, held to two points in the first half, scored 17 of her 24 in a 5½-minute span down the stretch in a spectacular individual effort. She made two free throws with 1:42 left to cut the Tar Heels' lead to 53-51.

Later, after Metcalf missed a 3-pointer, Duke's Alison Bales clanged two free throws off the rim that would have tied it, and Latta, the smallest player on the court at 5-foot-6, came up with the rebound. She converted both shots from the line to increase the margin to four, and the Blue Devils missed their final three shots.

Atkinson added another free throw with 10 seconds left to account for the final score.

"Beating the No. 1 team, and it's Duke?" Bell said. "It's a double victory for me. I'm real excited."

Jessica Foley had 13 points for the Blue Devils, who hadn't lost to North Carolina since Feb. 27, 2000. Freshman point guard Wanisha Smith had a miserable night, missing all seven shots and finishing with eight turnovers.

Duke's previous low was 59 points in two-point victory Dec. 2 at Tennessee.

"We had real intense practices, and coach stressed how we need to get in the lane, deny, play real intense, and that's all I was focused on," Bell said. "I just wanted to step it up to another level and let it all hang loose."

The Tar Heels took control from the start. In the first half, they held Duke to 5-for-30 shooting (17 percent) and without a basket for the final 6:52 to take a 26-13 lead. The margin still was 15 points midway through the second half after Bell's steal and subsequent layup, but Currie was just getting started.

"We knew they were going to go to Currie down the stretch," Hatchell said. "She's a great, great player."

After a 3-pointer by Foley cut North Carolina's lead to 10, Currie swished one of her own, added two free throws and a jumper before Metcalf's first big basket, a 3-pointer, made it 46-38.

Currie drove for a layup, and Latta and Foley traded 3-pointers before Currie again went to the line, making two more to bring Duke within five. She added an 18-footer, a layup and two more free throws following a layup in traffic by Metcalf, giving the Blue Devils a chance.

"I knew we had to play with a sense of urgency," Currie said. "I was just trying to get the best shot I could and be more aggressive."

Bales, an 80 percent free-throw shooter coming in, missed badly on her attempts, and North Carolina held on.