Duke Sprints Past Carolina

Duke's Shane Battier (31) is fouled by North Carolina's Brendan Haywood, right, as Kris Lang looks on. AP

No. 2 Duke hasn't dominated the ACC the past five seasons by backing down from a challenge. The Blue Devils were determined not give ground against their biggest rival Sunday.

Duke (26-4, 13-3), playing at a breakneck offensive pace without their top inside threat, made Atlantic Coast Conference history by winning or tying for their fifth straight regular-season title with a 95-81 victory over No. 4 North Carolina.

"This is the result of coming to work every single day with the dedication needed to be a champion," said Duke's Shane Battier, who was spectacular in his final regular-season ACC game. "Not once, but five times. That will be something to look back on."

Duke lost by two points to the Tar Heels (23-5, 13-3) in Durham a month ago, missing 14 of 27 free throws, but remained alive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a dominating offensive show in the Smith Center.

"We're Duke, this is a championship program," freshman Chris Duhon said. "We're not going to lay down and lose for anybody. We just came together as a team and showed why we are still pretty good.

"We came into this game not worrying about Xs and Os," added Duhon, who scored 15 points and had four assists in his first career start. "This game was more about heart and desire and a will to win. We knew we were outsized, we knew we were going against the world, but we had a bigger heart, a bigger will to come out and quiet all the critics."

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Game Summary

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  • Duke's two stars were the heroes in the Tobacco Road rematch as the Blue Devils were 14-for-38 from 3-point range without center Carlos Boozer, who watched from the bench with a broken bone in his right foot.

    Jason Williams scored 33 points and Battier added 25 points, 11 rebouds and five blocks as Duke won its third straight in Chapel Hill for the first time since the early 1960s.

    Many counted the Blue Devils out of this one as soon as Boozer went down in Tuesday's loss to Maryland. Everyone but Duke.

    "Nobody expected us to win," Battier said. "Everybody was ready to party on Franklin Street. I think they've got the kegs lined up, but we wanted to compete and play hard and we knew if we did that we would have a good shot a winning this game."

    ACC scoring leader Joseph Forte led the Tar Heels with 21 points.

    "The way they played broke our rhythm," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "I don't think we were real sharp handling the basketball. You've got to give them a lot of credit because they came into a tough situation being a man down."

    Williams came into the game shooting 36 percent against the Tar Heels in his career, but the point guard was money in this one, going 7-for-13 from 3-point range while Battier was 4-for-10.

    The 38 3-point attempts tied a school record set earlier this season against North Carolina A&T.

    "Growing up and playing on the playground that's the way you play all day in the summer," Battier said of Duke's racehorse style that wore out the taller Tar Heels. "To come to Duke and be able to play like that it's like a dream come true."

    Duke led by two at halftime, but gradually pulled away midway through the second half. The Blue Devils went up 72-57 with 11:55 left on a layup by Mike Dunleavy, who along with the rest of his teammates looked twice as quick as the Tar Heels, who were repeatedly beaten down the floor.

    Doherty tried to fire his team up by getting a technical two minutes later, but his team could only pull within 10 as he was forced to bench big men Brendan Haywood and Kris Lang for much of the second half to try to match up with Duke.

    "We made them think about us instead of focusing on them," Battier said.

    The Tar Heels were shooting for their first outright ACC regular-season title in eight seasons, but the Smith Center crowd instead exited early on Senior Day as Duke improved to 19-0 this season when scoring 90 or more points.

    "They took something away from us - definitely," North Carolina's Jason Capel said.

    The victory also gave Duke an ACC-record 124 wins over a four-year period, breaking the mark of the Duke teams from 1989-92.

    North Carolina failed to take advantage of the absence of Boozer on the inside as Haywood had two shots blocked by Casey Sanders early and wasn't much of a factor in the opening 20 minutes. Sanders ended up fouling out in only 11 minutes, but Duke really didn't need his inside game.

    Part of the problem for the Tar Heels was Duke's trapping zone defense, which confused North Carolina and bogged down its offense until late in the half.

    Meanwhile, Duke, which averaged 27.4 3-point attempts over thlast seven games, took 22 from beyond the arc in the first half, getting two over the final 1:20 from Williams to forge to take the two-point lead at halftime.

    Williams and Battier had 32 of Duke's 42 first-half points, taking over on the offensive end with Boozer watching from the bench on crutches.


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