by Mike Potter
And the fans are sure to get a heck of a show as the No. 9 Blue Devils (25-3, 11-2 ACC) host the No. 13 Tar Heels (22-6, 8-5) in the final ACC regular-season game of the campaign.
Duke has won two straight games while UNC has lost three in a row. But the Tar Heels’ last big victory was on Feb. 7 at Carmichael Auditorium when they held off the Blue Devils for a 62-60 win.
Duke is playing for the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament, which begins on Thursday at the Greensboro Coliseum. If the Blue Devils lose, Miami will be seeded No. 1 and Duke No. 2. The Tar Heels will be the No. 6 seed regardless of today’s outcome.
Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas are the seniors playing their final regular-season home game for the Blue Devils.
It’s another hard-fought Battle of the Blues, but Duke is stronger over the last 12 minutes and picks up the 66-58 victory.
The Tar Heels get the early momentum, taking a 15-8 at lead at 12:31 on a jumper that gives She’la White four straight points. But Duke responds with a quick run, as Shay Selby’s 3-pointer makes it 26-19 with 5:33 left in the half.
UNC recovers to lead 31-29 at halftime, led by 10 points from Chay Shegog. The Tar Heels shoot 31.3 percent in the first half to 24.3 from the Blue Devils and lead the rebound battle 29-25.
Duke takes the lead for good at 40-38 on a Selby jumper with 16:05 to go.
The Blue Devils’ largest margin is 14, at 56-42 on a Jasmine Thomas 3-pointer with 9:42 remaining.
UNC gets the margin down to six once, at 64-58 on Shegog’s three-point play with 1:29 to go, but can get no closer.
It is Duke’s 23rd straight victory at home.
Jasmine Thomas leads the Blue Devils with 17 points, followed by Christmas with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Allison Vernerey chips in 11 points, while Krystal Thomas adds 13 rebounds to her three points.
Italee Lucas paces the Tar Heels with 15 points, while Shegog chips in 14.
Duke shoots 34.8 percent to 30.6 for UNC and wins the rebound battle 52-46. The Tar Heels commit 19 turnovers to 17 for the winners.
They said it …
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “It was just a great basketball game, a really physical basketball game, that was very similar to an NCAA Tournament-type game because of the physical nature of it. I thought our team really persevered and came out in the second half and relaxed on offense a little bit, and did some more things defensively. I thought Karima’s leadership was incredible … And Jasmine again was always attacking, always taking charge and changing the tempo and always drawing the best defense and having to deal with that.”
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “I was proud of how hard we played. I thought we played really well in the first half. I thought we battled hard. There were a couple of minutes in the second half where we had a little bit of a lapse. They came out a lot harder in the second half with rebounding. We knew they would, because we were beating them on the boards at halftime. It was an extremely physical game with a lot of bodies flying. … The regular season’s over and it’s a new season. We’re ready to go to the tournament. If we play the way we did tonight, as hard as we did tonight, I think we have a great shot at it.”
Jasmine Thomas: “Something good about Senior (Day) is that it brings all those emotions, all the energy together, and everyone realizes you get only one chance to have this team. So I think it’s good to have this game, because everyone is realizing this is their last chance to do something great with this team. In that sense, I think we do have momentum. It brings everyone to realize that it’s time to really focus and get things done.”
Lucas: “Our defense has to be better. The little things, the chippy layups, we have to make those. I mean, we’re right there. The ACC Tournament is a new season so we’re going into that with that mindset.”
Stars of the game
1. Jasmine Thomas.
Play of the game
Christmas’ 3-pointer to make it 53-42 with 11:34 left.
UNC leads 47-33.
Duke: Won 3.
UNC: Lost 4.