Duke needed a signature conference win. They got it at the expense of their top rival.
Grayson Allen scored 25 points to lead Duke to an 86-78 home win over North Carolina. Allen was on fire early and finished 7-12 from three point range before fouling out with 1:15 left. Allen has topped 20 in every game he’s started against UNC.
Luke Kennard scored 20 points for the Blue Devils and Jayson Tatum added 19, all in the second half. Tatum proved to be a match-up nightmare for the Tar Heels, as no one could stop him from driving to the hoop, providing a key explosion for Duke in the second half. Included in that was a vicious slam over Kennedy Meeks that will be all over SportsCenter tomorrow. Duke shot 13-27 for three as a whole.
The Tar Heels, playing without starting big man Isaiah Hicks, who was out with a strained hamstring, were led by Justin Jackson with 21 and Joel Berry added 15. However, no one else on the team hit double digits in points, and UNC struggled at the free throw line, going only 10-18. Hicks’ absence contributed to the rebound game, as Duke surprisingly won the battle of the boards 31-30. Both teams shot over 50%.
An Allen three extended Duke’s lead to 80-75 with 1:30 left. Two Jackson free throws trimmed the lead to three, and Tatum missed a three on the other end. But Matt Jones came up with a huge offense rebound and allowed Duke to salt the game away at the line.
For Duke, this team looked like the one that people expected in the preseason. If Duke keeps up their current level of play, they will be a dangerous team in March. They immediately turn around on Saturday to play Clemson at home.
For UNC, this loss drops them to a tie for first in the ACC standings. They don’t play again until February 15 at NC State. The concern of Hicks’ injury is there, but ultimately UNC should be good to go.
Buckle up, everyone. This is gonna be a fun finish to the ACC season.