Duke Basketball: 5 Things We Learned from Duke's Win over UNC

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2013

Duke Basketball: 5 Things We Learned from Duke's Win over UNC

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    The latest game in the greatest rivalry in college basketball wasn't much of a game.

    Duke jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes of the first half and never looked back on its way to a 69-53 victory over North Carolina on Saturday night.

    It was one of the most impressive performances of the season for the Blue Devils and a screeching halt to the momentum the Tar Heels had generated over the past six games.

    The victory gave Duke a regular-season sweep of UNC, but the teams could face each other again in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.

    Here are five things we learned from Duke's win over North Carolina.

1. Duke Has Learned How to Extend a Lead

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    When the Blue Devils scored the first 14 points of the game, nearly everyone in the gym probably thought North Carolina would figure out a way to climb back into it.

    Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the opposite happened.

    Duke continued to execute on offense and force UNC to take difficult shots while extending the lead to as many as 20 points in the first half.

    Instead of suffering a letdown from a great start, Duke maintained its intensity and effort throughout the entire game.

    Even when North Carolina began to make shots in the second half, Duke still made timely baskets and the final outcome was never in doubt.

    This bodes well for the Blue Devils as they head to the NCAA tournament.

2. Seth Curry Is Ready for March Madness

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    Seth Curry basically shot the Tar Heels out of the game in the first half.

    Curry nearly matched North Carolina's scoring output by himself in the first 20 minutes of the game, scoring 18 while the Tar Heels had 24.

    The senior from Charlotte, NC also showed he is more than simply a three-point shooter by regularly beating defenders off the dribble and converting in the lane.

    With the attention Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly receive from opposing defenses, Duke is nearly unstoppable when Curry shoots well.

    He appears poised to lead this team on a run to the Final Four.

3. Rasheed Sulaimon Needs to Push Through the Wall

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    The only Blue Devil who was completely ineffective at the Dean Dome Saturday night was Rasheed Sulaimon.

    Sulaimon lost his starting spot to Tyler Thornton prior to the game, and Thornton responded by playing exceptional defense while Sulaimon continued his poor play.

    The freshman from Houston, Texas went through a shooting slump earlier in the season but responded with some strong games.

    Now, it appears Sulaimon is hitting another rough stretch as the game against UNC marked the fourth straight game he's failed to score in double figures.

    He could be hitting the dreaded "freshman wall," but Duke needs him to fight through it and continue to be a reliable contributor down the stretch.

4. Duke Doesn't Need Ryan Kelly to Play Well to Win

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    With the win over North Carolina, Duke moved to 18-0 this season with Ryan Kelly in the lineup.

    However, the Blue Devils won Saturday night's game with little contribution from Kelly.

    The 6'11" forward struggled with foul trouble in the first half and finished the game with eight points while only making two field goals.

    Yet, the mere presence of Kelly on the floor makes such an impact on Duke's spacing and movement on offense that it becomes a much more difficult team to defend.

    Kelly's reputation makes him such a threat to stretch the floor that the Blue Devils benefit from him even when he's not playing his best.

5. The Blue Devils Deserve a No. 1 Seed

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    As a mentioned in the previous slide, Duke is now 18-0 with Ryan Kelly this season.

    With the trio of Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry all playing exceptional basketball, one could make a strong case that Duke is the best team in the country.

    Looking at the entire body of work for the Blue Devils shows that they clearly deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    And with teams like Kansas and Florida struggling down the stretch, Duke appears to be peaking at the perfect time.