Chapel Hill, N.C. — In front of North Carolina’s sellout crowd at the Dean E. Smith Center Duke beat North Carolina 87-67 on Saturday in the final game in Chapel Hill for coach Mike Krzyzewski, earning the fifth straight win overall for Krzyzewski at the Hill. The Tar Heels had tough matchups trying to guard the Blue Devils. They entered the contest knowing 6-foot-10 forward Paolo Banchero would be a difficult task. They left knowing that A.J. Griffin was as well. Griffin had a career-high 27 points, and UNC couldn’t recoup defensively.
The Blue Devils held the Tar Hills to just six offensive boards and two second-chance points. The reason for the slow start in the first half shooting just 31 percent was Duke kept them off the glass. UNC rallied to trim their 23-point deficit to 11 at the break 39-28. But Duke opened the second half with a 10-0 run, spearheaded by Griffin.
“This was different than the losses earlier in the year to Tennessee and Kentucky,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “I don’t attribute that to the same thing. I thought for the most part, we played hard. We just didn’t play smart and we didn’t play together. At the end of the day, you know, we didn’t have an answer for Paulo and A.J.” Davis called the pair, “better than anybody we had.”
The Tar Heels was outscored 14-3 with Armando Bacot was on the bench over a five-minute because of foul trouble which helped the Blue Devils build their sizable lead. “It definitely hurt, he’s a captain on this team and we need him out there on the floor,” UNC senior Leaky Black said. “Going into the game this whole week I told him, ‘Whatever you do, you can’t get into foul trouble.’”
Duke hit the boards hard, outrebounding the Tar Heels 40-24. It was only the third time this season Carolina has been beat on the glass. Tennessee outrebounded them by eight and Kentucky had a plus-18 rebound margin.
“I was expecting us to throw the first punch in the second half and really put some life into this crowd, into our team,” Davis said. “And I really think that the difference was their response at the beginning of the game and their response at the beginning of the second half. They just took it to us on both ends of the floor at the beginning of both halves and we were just playing catch up the entire game.”
Duke shot 58% and kept the Tar Heels at bay for most of the game and made sure they weren’t able to climb back in it. The Blue Devils cracked down on the perimeter and forced UNC into taking difficult shots.
The victory allowed Duke (19-3, 9-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to give Krzyzewski a 17th and final victory in the Smith Center, where he coached against the Tar Heels in its opening game in January 1986.
Ninth-ranked Blue Devils ensured its retiring Hall of Fame coach could savor that moment Saturday night, thanks to a dominating opening stretch and a star-level performance from a upcoming freshman that had Tar Heels walking to the exit doors in the second half.
“We wanted to send him out with a win, because he definitely deserves it,” said Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr., who had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists to highlight the Blue Devils’ backcourt dominance.
Rod Griffin was the best player on the hardwood, a freshman who missed most of his last two high school seasons due to injury. After 13 first-half points, the NBA prospect put on a show to start the second half with his own 10-0 run that featured two treys — one of which had him dribbling between his legs to freeze defender Brady Manek before draining his jump shot in front of the Duke bench.
When Griffin scored over Manek on an off-balance drive, the Blue Devils stretched the lead back to 49-28 to force a North Carolina timeout.
Manek scored 21 points to lead UNC, who had won four straight games and swept last season’s rivalry series. But in first-year coach Hubert Davis’ head-coaching debut in the rivalry, the Tar Heels never recovered from the terrible start when Bacot picked up two quick fouls.
“We wanted to run a couple of things for him,” Krzyzewski said. “We ran one thing and he just, he went off.”
UNC (16-7, 8-4) didn’t get closer than 16 again, with the Blue Devils draining 3-pointers and dunks on the Tar Heels’ homecourt while the fans began fleeing for the exits with 5 minutes left to play.
“We got punched in the mouth, we thought it was going to be easy,” UNC’s Black said. “And then 5 minutes into the game, I guess we started panicking and going back to the stuff we were doing at the beginning of the season. That made it tough on us. We’re not going to win games like that.”
Duke: The Blue Devils return home to host Virginia on Monday.
UNC: The Tar Heels visit Clemson on Tuesday.