It was a movie we've seen before but with a different ending. UNC fends off a Duke rally for a 76-72 win and an ACC Regular Season title.
In many ways the game started like it did at Duke in 2012. UNC seized control early thanks to dominance of the offensive glass and some solid play from Kennedy Meeks. Unlike the first game, UNC was able to get the lead to double digits going up by 11 on a three point play from Justin Jackson. The sophomore got a run out for a dunk to make it 22-11 midway through the half. After a poor shooting effort to open the game, Duke started hitting and cut the lead down to 29-27. The Tar Heels responded with a 7-0 spurt fueled by a Marcus Paige three and a vicious dunk from Brice Johnson and went to the break up 40-32.
The second half followed a familiar theme making the game closer than it probably should have been. The Tar Heels went up ten on a pair of Johnson free throws in the half's first minute then went through a long drought. UNC missed its first 11 shots from the field passing on a golden opportunity to build a huge lead. That's because Duke was almost as bad shooting the ball. Unlike the game in Chapel Hill, UNC's problem wasn't settling for jump shots but being wholly unable to hit anything no matter where the shot was taken. Kennedy Meeks broke the spell with a pair of baskets from the middle of Duke's zone but the damage had been done, Duke was still very much in the game.
Duke got on track first offensively and slowing chipped away at UNC's lead eventually tying the game at 49-49 on a Grayson Allen three pointer. A hustle play from Theo Pinson to tip in a Jackson miss and a run out layup from Paige pushed the lead back to four with 11:06 left. Duke continued to hang around as UNC's shooting struggles wouldn't quite go away. The Blue Devils kept the lead at one possession through the eight minute mark before UNC put together an 11-4 run to extend the lead to nine with 3:22 left.
The Blue Devils cut the lead to 68-64 and with 26 seconds left it became a matter of hitting free throws for the Tar Heels. Over the final 26 seconds Pinson, Berry and Paige combined to go 8-8 with Paige hitting the last four to stay ahead of Duke's late three point barrage.
Despite the poor shooting, UNC had five players reach double figures. Johnson led the way with 18 points and 21 rebounds. Jackson had 13 points despite hitting just 4-16 shots. Berry had 12 points including five crucial points in the key 11-4 run to take control of the game late. The much maligned Kennedy Meeks also had 12 points to go with 14 rebounds. Paige ended with 11 points despite being just 3-10 but his late free throws helped salt the game away.
The Tar Heels finished the game with 64 rebounds. That is the third post in UNC history for a game. The Tar Heels finish the regular season 25-6 overall and 14-4 with solo possession of the ACC Regular Season title.