Peter Koutroumpis – @pksport
DURHAM, N.C. – Number 21-ranked Duke (13-5, 4-4) dropped a 78-62 decision to in-state rival North Carolina (16-3, 6-3) at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday.
Despite not having head coach Kara Lawson on the bench, sitting out due to health and safety protocols, as well as missing Celeste Taylor’s scoring and rebounding for a fifth straight game, three players posted double-digit finishes for Duke – Elizabeth Balogun and Miela Goodchild each had a team-high 14 points and freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Only trailing by one following the opening 10 minutes, the Blue Devils couldn’t overcome a disastrous second period as the Tar Heels outscored them 28-8, and carried a 47-26 lead into halftime.
It was an uphill battle that couldn’t be won for the remainder of the game.
Alyssa Ustby led UNC with 20 points followed by an impressive performance from Kennedy Todd-Williams who added 15, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and led the Tar Heels with seven rebounds.
The bright spot for Duke was that Goodchild dropped 13 points in the fourth period as she made good on her final three 3-point attempts and Balogun added seven of her 14 points as the Blue Devils outscored the Tarheels 24-17 in the quarter.
However, the halftime deficit proved too much to overcome as North Carolina claimed the decisive 16-point win – a product of tenacious play at both ends of the court that forced Duke to commit numerous turnovers and fouls throughout.
“We talked about being able to play on the second side, which is when good things happen,” Duke assistant coach Winston Gandy noted after leading the Blue Devils bench in Lawson’s absence.
“We took some quick shots, which puts stress on our defense. We went around the room and I think everybody agreed that that’s not us, in that second quarter. I thought we did a great job in the second half of moving on and flipping that script. I thought we saw some great areas of growth as we moved forward.”
The Tar Heels committed a season-low six turnovers while forcing 18, which they then turned into 27 points.
They outscored Duke 40-24 in the paint and 19-12 in transition.
“Coach said before the game, ‘throw the first punch,’” Ustby added.
“We took that to heart. We looked at our five starters like, ‘we start the game off, we start the tempo,’ and that’s what we did. We set the game on a trajectory that we were in control of every possession, offensively and defensively. We were being active, not reactive. We just trusted one another, and that’s what it takes to win a big ball game like this.”
It was North Carolina’s first win against Duke since an overtime win in Chapel Hill on Jan. 21, 2018, a game that featured former head coach Sylvia Hatchell being honored at halftime for recording 1000 career wins.
The Tar Heels had lost five in a row to the Blue Devils since then and had lost six in a row in Durham since beating the Blue Devils at Cameron dating back to Feb. 10, 2014.
“This is a great environment for a college basketball game,” UNC head coach Courtney Banghart said following her first win leading the Tar Heels over Duke.
“This Duke-Carolina rivalry means a lot to a lot of people, especially those involved in it. I’m happy we get to bring home a win on the road.”
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