Mason Plumlee didn’t mind much that he was on the bench when No. 2 Duke finally took a lead on North Carolina Tar Heels.
When the Blue Devils’ elite big man finally got back on the court, he picked up his scoring pace.
Plumlee scored 10 of his 18 points after returning from a foul-induced break early in the 2nd half, helping Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 73-68 in his final home game against the Blue Devils’ unfriendly rivals.
”I want to beat everybody my last game at Cameron” Indoor Stadium, Plumlee declared. ”I tell myself that each game.”
Plumlee also had 11 rebounds, while Quinn Cook scored 18 points and Rasheed Sulaimon finished with 13 for the Blue Devils (22-2, 9-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
”I think this team has a chance to do something special,” Plumlee added. ”The season is totally open in the college basketball landscape. I am not going to have any regrets at the end of the season.”
Duke shot 44 percent – 52 percent after halftime – and erased a slow begin with that timely run and won its 6th straight this season and 6th in 8ht conferences in college basketball’s fiercest rivalry.
P.J. Hairston matched a career high with 23 points and Reggie Bullock had 15 points with four 3-pointers for North Carolina (16-8, 6-5), which led for the 1st 26 minutes but went on to lose its 2nd straight.
The Tar Heels were 13 of 23 from the free-throw line and missed 7 of 10 during a critical late stretch while falling to 1-4 this season against ranked opponents. Football lines
”If I knew the easiest way to fix the blessed thing, I’d have fixed it,” coach Roy Williams declared of his team’s struggles at the line. ”The bottom line is, we didn’t make free throws today. We aren’t a good free-throw shooting team in games.”
Still, they trailed just 65-61 in the last minute and appeared to have got a stop by forcing Duke’s Tyler Thornton to miss a long 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down. But Bullock fouled Sulaimon on the rebound, and the freshman hit both free throws with 37.5 seconds left.
Hairston hit a free throw on North Carolina’s next possession to cut it to 67-62, but Plumlee counteracted with 2 free throws with 30.3 seconds left to make it a 3-possession game.
Seth Curry scored 11 points in his 6th straight double-figure performance against North Carolina Tar Heels.
The win was a nice present for Mike Krzyzewski, who was celebrating his 66th birthday.
And an unorthodox move – putting one of the best big men in the nation on the bench, however temporarily – wound up putting Duke Blue Devils ahead for the 1st time in this one.
Plumlee picked up his 3rd foul 31 seconds into the 2nd half and uncorked a untimely 20-foot jumper a few minutes later on prompting Krzyzewski to burn a timeout. He went to a smaller lineup, sitting Plumlee in favor of 2 power forwards, Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston.
”I thought he was playing like he had 3 fouls,” Krzyzewski expounded. UNC’s James Michael ”McAdoo was just going at him so that McAdoo was either going to score, or Mason was going to foul him.”