Duke's Jabari Parker (1) blocks North Carolina's Nate Britt during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Gerry Broome

Duke's Jabari Parker (1) blocks North Carolina's Nate Britt during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Tar Heels rally to knock off Blue Devils

By Justin Hite

Sports Writer

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CHAPEL HILL – What last week’s winter storm could only delay, even No. 5 ranked Duke seemed powerless to stop.
North Carolina, riding a seven-game winning streak coming into Thursday, scored on 12 of its final 13 possessions and made it eight straight wins as Marcus Paige raised his fists in the air and a wave of blue cascaded out of the student section following the Tar Heels’ 74-66 victory against its biggest rival.
“At times recently, this has been really a special group,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “… I just love kids that keeping play and keep coming after you.”
After a sluggish start, North Carolina (19-7, 9-4 ACC) roared back at the end of the second half.
The Tar Heels held Duke (21-6, 10-4), which had won seven of the past nine meetings against North Carolina, without a field goal for 8:42 midway through the second half and to just one basket in the final 4:50 of the game, which was postponed from last Wednesday.
“They just played a great second half, and we didn’t respond to it,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “… We just couldn’t match it, and that (was) why they won.”
North Carolina trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half but rebounded from a scoring drought of its own to take control at the seven-minute mark.
North Carolina jumped between zones – the 3-2, the 1-3-1 and even a little trap – to keep Duke off balance. While the Blue Devils didn’t have bad looks late in the game, they missed 10 of their last 11 three-point attempts.
“We hoped to guard them, but we’d also like them to miss some shots. I think it’s a little bit of both,” Williams said. “I think we guarded them OK, but they missed some shots. … They missed some shots that they normally make. We changed defenses a little bit and that hopefully helped us. We want to do that a little more.”
Paige, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, did his best work late in the game.
With the Tar Heels, who have rebounded from one of the worst ACC starts in school history, ahead by just four points, Paige hit a pull-up jumper with the shot clock ticking down.
On the very next possession, Paige drove for a scoop lay-up as Duke mounted hits final surge. After the basket, North Carolina ended the game on an 8-4 run, making six free throws in the final 40 seconds.
“How many wins have we got? 19?” Williams said. “I’ve only trusted him for 26 games, so I’m not going to stop now. He’s a marvelous youngster and a marvelous basketball player. … He’s the kind of kid you feel lucky enough to coach.”
Leslie McDonald scored a season-high 21 points, breaking a recent slump that had caused some concern. He shot 9-for-12.
“If it’s going in for me, I’ll keep using it to my advantage,” McDonald said. “I was feeling pretty hot, and I was making sure I was taking good shots.”
Quinn Cook and Jabari Parker each scored 17 points to lead the Blue Devils, who lost to an unranked North Carolina team as a top-5 school for the first time since 1990.
Rodney Hood, who scored his first 11 points in just 3:22 in the first half, finished with 16 points.
“No matter what we did in a timeout, we just didn’t have that spark,” Krzyzewski said. “That spark, the anger, the emotion, the thing you have to have to match their crowd and what their team is doing. You have to try and counter that. I thought we just didn’t have the life we needed to have. They deserved to win.”
North Carolina did struggle early in the game. Despite six unanswered points to start the game, the Tar Heels missed six straight free throws at one point and started the game 1-for-7 from the free-throw line.
Things changed late as the Tar Heels hit their final 10 free throws to secure the game.
“It’s a great, great rivalry and it’s fun to be involved in it,” Williams said. “I loved our guys composure down the stretch.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or jhite@rmtelegram.com