ACC Basketball: North Carolina 79, Duke 73

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2007

By Nick Bowton

Salisbury Post

DURHAM — Josh McRoberts sat on the Duke bench, his face covered in a towel to hide the tears after picking up a fourth foul.

That was with 12 minutes still remaining.

The Blue Devils knew their game Wednesday against rival North Carolina meant even more because they’d lost two games in a row, and that meant the sting of Wednesday’s 79-73 loss hurt even worse.

No. 16 Duke has now lost three straight games in one season for the first time since 1995-96 and has lost three games in one season at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time since that same year.

“It hurts,” said Duke freshman Jon Scheyer, who scored a career- and game-high 26 points. “It hurts a lot. It’s another tough one, and it doesn’t get any easier for us.

“It’s just really frustrating.”

That’s because Duke (18-6, 5-5 ACC) isn’t used to these types of streaks.

Perhaps because of that, the Blue Devils looked like a team with a clear purpose through the first 20 minutes last night. They had great ball movement, played their trademark stingy defense and built a

39-34 halftime lead.

“We played a lot better tonight,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought we played a terrific game, but it wasn’t enough against a terrific team.

“We played winning basketball.”

So did UNC. And the Tar Heels proved to be a step quicker and a bit deeper down the stretch.

Every time Duke hit a big bucket or inspired its crowd with a hustle play, the Tar Heels (21-3, 7-2) scored before the fans could finish celebrating.

As a result, UNC weathered a rough first half from leading scorer Tyler Hansbrough and never let the Blue Devils fully capture momentum.

“You just like what’s going on and you like the way we kept attacking,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “We were down 10 a couple of times, and I told our guys if we keep attacking and do a little bit better job of not hitting every screen they set we would be there at the end.

“I really felt that way.”

Williams’ players proved him right midway through the second half, when they went on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 52-all on a

6-foot jumper from Hansbrough with 9:43 remaining.

Hansbrough scored only four points and had no rebounds in the first half, but he finished with 16 points. Teammate Brandan Wright scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, and he and Hansbrough combined to shoot 14-of-21.

“They’re really good,” Krzyzewski said. “To hold them for even a half was … they have two (NBA draft) lottery picks.”

They also have freshman point guard Ty Lawson, who scored seven of his 15 points in the final 1:46.

Lawson beat Duke point guard Greg Paulus off the dribble with 1:46 left and completed the three-point play for a 70-63 lead. With the shot clock winding down exactly a minute later, Lawson took DeMarcus Nelson off the dribble, executed a spin move and made a driving layup for a 72-66 lead. Duke, which shot 9-of-9 from the free-throw line in the first half but 3-of-10 in the second, got no closer than four points after that.

The Tar Heels also got a defensive boost from Wes Miller off the bench, and Reyshawn Terry had the second double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Duke, meanwhile, got another solid performance from Paulus, who scored a career-high 23 points in a loss to Florida State on Sunday and had 15 points, four assists and no turnovers last night.

Krzyzewski lauded his players for their effort, but that doesn’t change their .500 conference record or three-game losing streak.

“A loss is a loss,” said a subdued McRoberts, who couldn’t play all-out defensively playing the final nine minutes with four fouls. “But obviously this means a lot. It hurts a lot to lose — especially here at home.”

Added Paulus: “We’re playing hard, and sometimes it doesn’t result in a win. We have to keep remembering this feeling so it doesn’t happen again.”

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NOTES: Duke freshman Gerald Henderson scored a career-high 14 points. … Krzyzewski started Paulus, Scheyer, David McClure, Brian Zoubek and Gerald Henderson in an attempt to “get guys to be freer. We’re just going to keep doing things to keep getting better.” Duke’s regular starting lineup has been Paulus, Scheyer, Nelson, McRoberts and Lance Thomas. … McRoberts finished with 11 rebounds but just six points.

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Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or nbowton@salisburypost.com.

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