Slow Pace Can't Stop Duke In 60-48 Win Over UNC
March 8, 2002
By JENNA FRYER
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The deliberate pace North Carolina needed was frustrating for No. 3 Duke, but it was a perfect tune-up for the rest of the postseason.
North Carolina slowed Friday night's game against Duke to a crawl, enabling the Tar Heels to hang with the Blue Devils for much of the contest before eventually bowing out 60-48 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
The defeat officially ended Carolina's (8-20) record of 27 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament and secured its first 20-loss season in school history.
"That was an NCAA tournament game," said Jason Williams, who led Duke with 20 points. "Tournament games are going to be slowed down and you are going to be fighting for possession after possession. That's what happened here and that's what we'll face the rest of the way."
After losing the first two meetings with Duke (27-3) by a combined 54 points - including Sunday's 93-68 drubbing - the Tar Heels knew they couldn't run with the Blue Devils. Needing to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to extend the season, coach Matt Doherty spent the week working on a completely different game plan.
What he came up with was one of the slowest tempos in North Carolina history, with guard Adam Boone often stopping the ball at midcourt as 10 or more seconds ticked off and the Tar Heels let the clock wind all the way down before taking their shots.
"You don't want to have to play that way, but it was the only chance we had to win," said Doherty, who had clearly been crying in the locker room.
"We worked on it and I went to Jason (Capel) and said this is the way we need to play to try to beat Duke and he said, `Let's do it. I'm with you.' And we thought we were going to win."
The strategy almost worked as Carolina shot 51 percent while taking just 29 shots and keeping the score close throughout.
The Tar Heels had an 11-10 lead with 12:26 to play - but when their shots stopped falling it dropped them into a hole. North Carolina went scoreless for almost 4 minutes, then Mike Dunleavy hit a pair of 3-pointers to give Duke a 26-14 lead.
So the Tar Heels brought the game to a near stop with Boone holding the ball at midcourt. The pace was agonizing for the fans, who booed loudly every time Boone stood idle, and frustrating for the Blue Devils, who crouched low and began clapping in rhythm to keep their focus.
No matter to the Tar Heels, who closed the half with an 8-2 run to only trail 28-22 at the break.
"It was obvious we couldn't run-and-gun with them," Capel said. "We had to do something."
The slow pace continued in the second half, allowing the Tar Heels to twice climb out of 10-point holes. Working to their advantage was Williams' early shooting woes - he had just six points with 10 minutes remaining.
But he found his scoring touch at the worst possible time for North Carolina. After the Tar Heels pulled within 37-34, Williams made them pay when Carolina's Jawad Williams missed a pair of free throws.
Instead of making it a one-point game, it went the other way when Jason Williams hit a soft jumper after the miss, then converted a North Carolina turnover into a 3-pointer for a 44-34 Duke lead.
"We had worked all week on better communication, so the biggest play of the game was Jason's 3," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He ran the baseline, saw Chris (Duhon) and just yelled `Chris!' and Chris found him and hit him and that was the communication I was talking about."
When North Carolina again rallied to cut it to 58-43 with 4:35 to play, Williams came up with a steal that led to his own dunk then hit a quick 3 to push Duke's lead to 53-43. Duhon followed with another 3 to make it 56-45 with 1:14 to play and seal the win.
Carlos Boozer finished with 11 points, and Dunleavy had 10.
Capel finished with seven points and received a standing ovation when he fouled out with under a minute to play. He ran over to the Duke bench and shook hands with the coaching staff before leaving the court for the final time.
After the game, he and fellow senior Kris Lang sat silently, unable to digest that their Carolina careers were over.
"I'm trying not to say too much," said Lang, whose eyes where red-rimmed. "It was very emotional for me in the locker room, so I'd rather not say too much about it."