CHAPEL HILL — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made his last trip to the Dean Smith Center a successful one, as his Duke Blue Devils blew out the UNC Tar Heels, 87-67 on Saturday evening.
The Blue Devils scored 13 of the game’s first 15 points and never looked back. Duke hit six of its first seven shots, while the Tar Heels hit just two of their first 12.
The Tar Heels seemed out of sorts, putting up wild shots that missed by a wide margin. Eight of UNC’s first dozen attempts were from 3-point range, and Carolina hit just one of them. Making matters worse, big man Armando Bacot picked up two early fouls and was forced to the bench while Duke continued to build its lead, eventually going up by 23 points at 31-8.
The Tar Heels attempted to battle back, led by Brady Manek, who scored 14 of UNC’s first 23 points. Leaky Black also was switched on defense to cover freshman Paolo Banchero, keeping the All-American candidate in check for much of the first half.
The Tar Heels cut into the Duke lead and had a chance to get the deficit to single digits for the first time since 16:20 remained in the half, but RJ Davis’ first-half buzzer-beater bounced off the back rim, and Duke led by 11 at the half.
“We won the first 12 minutes, they won the last eight,” Coach K told his team at halftime. “If we start out the first four minutes like the last eight, they’re going to beat us.”
Duke then turned to freshman A.J. Griffin, who opened play by making the first four shots of the second half for 10 straight points to put Duke back up by 21.
“We wanted to impose our will early in the second half,” said Wendell Moore. “On the offensive end, A.J. led us for the first three or four minutes. He was on a different level.”
Griffin finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was 3 of 6 on 3-pointers.
“A.J. exploded,” said Krzyzewski. “We wanted to run some things for him. We ran one thing and he just went off … A.J. was the star today.”
Duke built the lead to as many as 28 points before UNC’s reserves closed the game on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 20. Even with that face-saving run, it was still the most lopsided win by Duke in the series since March 6, 2010, an 82-50 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was Duke’s biggest win in the Smith Center since an 87-58 win on Jan. 31, 2002.
The win put Duke in sole possession of first place in the ACC at 9-2, 19-3 overall. UNC, which could have pulled into a first-place tie with a win, is tied for third at 9-4, 16-7 overall.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Moore. “Any time you get a win of that magnitude in this rivalry, it means a lot. It was about more than just us and Carolina. This was about Coach. We wanted to send him out with a win.”
Krzyzewski finishes his Duke career at 17-19 against the Tar Heels in the Smith Center and 19-19 overall in the building with two NCAA Tournament wins in the building.