DURHAM – If Saturday turns out to be the final time Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood play at Cameron Indoor Stadium, it was a nearly perfect sendoff.
The standout Duke players combined to score 54 points as No. 4 Duke earned payback against No. 14 North Carolina, 93-81, snapping and the Tar Heels' 13-game winning streak and leveling the season series at one.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Duke didn't have “it” after the earlier meeting in Chapel Hill, a UNC win, but North Carolina coach Roy Williams wanted to update that sentiment after Saturday.
“It's hard to say what 'it' is, but whatever the hell 'it' is, Jabari found it,” Williams said. “Jabari – Rodney also – but Jabari, that was about as impressive as I've seen in a long, long time.”
Duke (24-7, 13-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat the Tar Heels for the eighth time in 11 tries dating back to 2010, but in Saturday's meeting, it was Duke's two stars who were memorable.
Parker scored 30 points, the most a freshman has ever scored against North Carolina (23-8, 13-5). Parker shot 10-for-17 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line, and he also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double.
Hood was just as unstoppable, adding 24 points on 8-for-13 from the field and making all five of his free throws.
“Jabari was sensational and so was Rodney,” Krzyzewski said. “This is the first game where the two of them were sensational together. They've both been good together, but they were sensational together (Saturday). Fifty-four points is a lot of points from two kids.”
Hood said Saturday was the type of game the rest of the Blue Devils have been pushing Parker to have.
“Offensively, I think it's so difficult to guard us both at the same time,” Hood said.
“We've been telling him as a player that he needs to go out there and dominate the game because nobody in the country can guard him,” Hood said of Parker. “And that's what he did.”
North Carolina began the game miserably. Through their opening 13 possessions, the Tar Heels had as many points (six) as they had turnovers.
Once the Tar Heels stopped throwing away the ball, they were quite efficient. North Carolina, the worst free-throw shooting team in the ACC, made 10 of its 14 free throws and shot almost 62 percent in the first half to cut into a Duke lead that reached 13 at one point in the opening period.
Hood and Parker combined for 27 points on 11-for-17 shooting in the first 20 minutes, but the rest of the Blue Devils, however, shot 6-for-19.
At halftime, Duke led, 40-37.
To start the second half, Parker and Hood each hit field goals and Quinn Cook and Andre Dawkins both hit threes as part of a 13-4 run.
North Carolina, which never led, came no closer than eight points the rest of the game.
“I think it was a sense of urgency,” Parker said. “A lot of games that we lead by, a lot of teams get us. I think we just needed to drive through and forget all the distractions, but just move forward and pull through the game.”
Marcus Paige cut the lead to eight on a free throw with 2:50 remaining in the game, but the Tar Heels couldn't make up ground with Duke's free-throw shooting. The Blue Devils made 23 of their 27 free throws in the second half, which included a 14-of-16 mark in the final three minutes.
The game featured a pair of statistical anomalies for North Carolina. The Tar Heels came into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the ACC, yet were outrebounded, 36-20, the fewest rebounds in a game for North Carolina since 1987.
Despite losing by 12, the Tar Heels also shot 31-for-52 (59.6 percent) the best percentage it has shot in a loss since 1986, also at Cameron. It was the first time in 11 years under Williams that the Tar Heels shot better than 50 percent and lost, a span of 142 games.
Four Tar Heels scored in double figures, led by Paige with 24. James Michael McAdoo had 13 points but no rebounds before fouling out.
North Carolina will be the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament.
Though North Carolina overcame a 1-4 start in the ACC to earn a seed that high, what Williams saw Saturday, he said, wasn't good enough.
“North Carolina needs to play a heck of a lot better,” Williams said. “We've got to get back to that sense of urgency that we had for a few weeks there.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or email@example.com