Second-half adjustments push No. 3 Duke past No. 19 North Carolina

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After one half of basketball in Chapel Hill, No. 3 Duke trailed No. 19 North Carolina by two points, a good margin for the visitors given the way in which they played. Luckily for Duke, North Carolina was unable to build a greater advantage and that left the door open for Mike Krzyzewski’s team provided they made some adjustments to the game plan.

The Blue Devils did just that, and their move to change the way in which they attacked the Tar Heels on both ends of the floor resulted in an 84-77 victory.

Offensively, Duke made greater use of the ball screen especially when it came to their talented guard tandem of Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. Jones exceeded his output in the first meeting, scoring 24 points (17 in the second half) while also accounting for seven assists and six rebounds with just one turnover. As for Cook, he added 20 points and four rebounds, making some key baskets in the second half.

In total Duke finished with four double-digit scorers, with Jahlil Okafor adding 14 points and Justise Winslow 13, but as was the case in the first meeting Duke’s stellar backcourt led the way.

Duke was able to make North Carolina’s big men defend away from the basket, which led to them finding higher quality looks than they did in the first half. After scoring ten points in the paint in the first half, Duke tallied 22 in the second with the majority of those points coming by way of dribble penetration. The North Carolina big men would also factor into Duke’s defensive adjustment, and the Blue Devils’ greatest asset on that end of the floor was a player who finished the game with three points and six rebounds.

Duke used more full-court pressure in the second half, and thanks to Amile Jefferson’s work as the trapping big man North Carolina’s guards were forced to give up the basketball before they wanted to on multiple occasions. As a result, North Carolina big men had to help advance the ball past half court and this kept the Tar Heels out of transition.

Granted, North Carolina did shoot better than 58 percent from the field in the second half but their flow was upset by the Duke pressure. And after both teams managed to score seven points off of turnovers in the first half, Duke managed to score 14 in the second.

After having issues in the first half Duke made the adjustments needed to exploit areas in which they held an advantage. The changes paid off, resulting in Duke sweeping their bitter rival and adding another quality road win to their resume. Having already won games at Wisconsin, St. John’s, Virginia and Louisville, Duke adds another result to a resume that will in all likelihood net the program a one-seed come Selection Sunday.