This season, Duke has been playing a video before each home game entitled "Our House." After last night's game, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough can officially say that Cameron is, indeed, their house.
The two stars will finish their collegiate careers having never tasted defeat in four trips to one of the most daunting arenas in college basketball, something that has been an extremely rare occurrence in the Mike Krzyzewski era.
UNC started the game off hot, getting 10 early points from Deon Thompson. They caused five early Duke turnovers and sprinted out of the gates to an 11-point lead with 10:52 to play in the first half.
Then it looked as if the stifling atmosphere of Cameron Indoor Stadium caught up with them.
Duke went on a 22-5 run over the next six minutes, utilizing a very balanced and efficient attack from Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Gerald Henderson to take a 40-34 lead with just under five minutes to play in the half.
It was a lead that Duke would expand to eight points by halftime, heading to the locker room with a 52-44 advantage.
If it seemed like everything was going right for Duke at that point, it was. They shot 61.8 percent from the field and outscored UNC 22-16 in the paint. They even managed to break even with UNC on the boards, with each team pulling down 15 before the break.
But nothing ever comes easily in this rivalry, and UNC was not about to give up.
UNC came out of the half on a 14-4 run, getting points from all five starters, to tie the game up at 58 with 14:56 to play. The two teams battled evenly over the next four minutes until Wayne Ellington's three-pointer at the 11:02 mark put UNC up 67-65, a lead they would never relinquish.
After Gerald Henderson's free throws brought Duke within three at the 7:38 mark, UNC went on a 14-0 run, fueled mainly by the play of Ty Lawson, who scored 10 of those points.
By the time Duke scored again, a three-pointer by Jon Scheyer at the 3:19 mark, the score was 88-74, and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
The difference in this game was undoubtedly Ty Lawson. After scoring only four points in the first, the junior speedster scored 21 points in the second half and was able to get to the rim at will, regardless of who was guarding him.
He finished with a game-high 25 points, five assists, and four rebounds. He shot 8-of-11 from the field and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line. In a game where all five UNC starters scored at least 12 points, Lawson was clearly the star.
Duke had no answer for him in the second half. They rotated Greg Paulus and Nolan Smith in and out, at least until Smith picked up his fourth foul. They switched every screen on the perimeter, but nothing they tried slowed down the play of Lawson, who was characterized after the game as being both patient and aggressive.
“Somebody would say that’s probably an oxymoron, but I think it is true," said UNC coach Roy Williams after the game when asked about the combination of patience and aggressiveness in Lawson's second half play. "He was patient until he saw an opening and then he tried to take it. I think that was it."
Mike Krzyzewski had this to say about Lawson: "Lawson was a pro tonight. That’s as well as a point guard has played against us in a while. He played strong, smart, just puts so much pressure on you on every exchange."
But another factor in the game was the defense of UNC, an aspect of their game that has been widely criticized by experts this season.
After allowing Duke to shoot 61.8 percent from the field in the first half, UNC cranked up the intensity on the defensive end. Duke only shot 13-of-36 (36.1 percent) in the second half, including 2-of-15 from deep, and actually took more shots from the field than UNC did, while scoring 22 points less.
Gerald Henderson was held to just four points in the second half (after scoring 13 in the first) on 1-for-9 shooting. Greg Paulus, who has had big games against UNC in his career, did not score at all in the second half after scoring eight points in the first.
UNC also forced nine Duke turnovers in the second half (after coming away with just six in the first), and they ratcheted up the effort on the glass, outrebounding Duke by five.
In the game, UNC became the first team in nine years to score 100 or more points against Duke. The last time Duke allowed triple digits at Cameron was the classic double-overtime thriller against UNC in 1995.
But UNC didn't need 10 extra minutes in this one.
They shot 54.8 percent for the game (59.4 percent in the second half) and converted 27 of their 31 free throw attempts. Their incredibly efficient offense managed 101 points on just 62 field goal attempts. By contrast, Duke scored 87 points and attempted 70 shots.
But this game will be remembered for a dominant second-half performance by UNC, and by Lawson in particular. His mindset in the second half was obvious: attack.
"We didn't think they could stay in front of us," Lawson said. "I just knew I could get to the basket."
He could, and did, and in doing so put on quite a show—one that will be remembered on Tobacco Road for quite a while.
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