by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL It’s yet another “Battle of the Blues,” and once again both teams have plenty on the line.
Duke will be favored, having won the previous meeting in a 96-56 rout on Feb. 6 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but in her four seasons as the Blue Devils’ head coach Joanne P. McCallie has never won in Chapel Hill.
Of course it’s Senior Day for the Tar Heels, with Chay Shegog, Laura Broomfield and She’la White all playing in their final regular-season home game.
Duke takes a solid lead and then absorbs a strong rally, holding on for a 69-63 victory.
Duke leads 44-30 at halftime, losing Haley Peters for about 10 game minutes in a bloody mess late in the period when she ends up on the wrong end of an inadvertent elbow from Shegog.
Elizabeth Williams and Tricia Liston have 10 each for Duke over the first 20 minutes, while Shegog leads the Tar Heels with 13.
Duke shoots 56.2 percent for the first half to the Tar Heels’ 37.5, leads the rebound battle 20-14 and has 10 turnovers to 13 for UNC.
Liston leads the Blue Devils with 15 points, followed by Williams with 13 and nine rebounds, Chelsea Gray with 12 points , seven assists and seven steals, and Allison Vernerey with 10 points. Gray now has the Duke single-season assists record with 173.
Peters undergoes “either 16 or 17” stitches, returning to the game with 10:49 left and finishing with nine points.
Shegog, who gives Peters a big hug in the handshake line when it’s over, leads all scorers with 22 points while freshman Brittany Rountree comes off the bench for 17.
Duke shoots 51.9 percent to 37.9 for the Tar Heels, wins the rebound battle 36-31 and commits 22 turnovers to 23 for UNC.
After the game, the ACC announced the tournament bracket.
They said it …
McCallie: “I didn’t think we could get more adversity, but we did (with Peters’ injury) and I think the team handled the game very, very well. I’m disappointed with the 22 turnovers. We need to take a look at that. … Any time a team shoots 52 percent from the floor, that’s a sign of excellent ball movement and great, savvy play by the guards. Particularly by Chelsea in terms of her decisions and what’s she’s trying to do with her team on the floor.”
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: “If we had played the first half like we did the second half we’d be a lot happier right now. But I thought in the second half we competed a lot harder. We played transition defense and we played like we were supposed to play. Duke’s a very good game. They’re very skilled with a lot of great players out there.”
Gray: “(Peters) is our warrior. She’s the backbone of this team, and when we saw her come back into the game I turned to her and said ‘Welcome back.’ It was just good to have her back on the floor.”
Shegog: “Three weeks ago, we knew we didn’t play how we could have played (against Duke). We spent time, we analyzed their team, and this time we had a really solid game plan to try to beat them.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke keeps rolling in the direction of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And that the Tar Heels’ momentum will be OK heading into the ACC Tournament.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Gray’s steal and layup for a three-point play to put Duke up 53-37.
Duke: Won 2.
UNC: Lost 2.
UNC leads 47-36.
UNC vs. Clemson in ACC Tournament first round, Thursday, 11 a.m.
Duke in ACC Tournament quarterfinal, Friday, 3 p.m.