DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Duke got off to a bad offensive start. Then came an even worse finish. And it ended up costing the sixth-ranked Blue Devils a conference title Saturday night.
After a miserable first-half shooting performance, Duke had its spread-the-floor offense moving well enough to erase North Carolina's big halftime lead. But the Blue Devils went cold at the worst time, going scoreless in the last 5 1/2 minutes and watching the top-ranked Tar Heels celebrate their third straight win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
After going ahead on a stickback by Jon Scheyer with about 5 1/2 minutes left, Duke missed its last 11 shots while the Tar Heels scored the game's final 10 points in a 76-68 win that gave North Carolina the ACC regular-season title. It was a surprising power outage for a team that always seems to play its best when the outcome is in doubt, particularly at its raucous home arena.
``The second half, we really played like the team that we've been playing like all year,'' Duke senior DeMarcus Nelson said. ``But the first half, it was just the complete opposite. We didn't have the poise. We didn't have the chemistry on offense and defensively we gave up a lot of buckets in transition and second-chance shots.
``We really played with a lot of emotion and fought back and got back into the game. But once we got there, I think we were just emotionally drained at that point and we hit a wall.''
The Blue Devils (26-4, 13-3) never looked completely in rhythm, a stark contrast to their efficiently running offense that helped them take an 89-78 win in Chapel Hill on Feb. 6. In that game, Duke shot 46 percent, including 13-for-29 from behind the 3-point arc, to negate the Tar Heels' size advantage inside.
But this time - playing on ``Senior Night'' with a rowdy home crowd that included Super Bowl MVPs Peyton and Eli Manning - Duke shot a season-low 33 percent while going 10-for-29 from 3-point range. Duke managed to play like it had all year only once: a 14-minute stretch after the break that saw them erase North Carolina's 42-31 halftime lead and give them the 68-66 lead on Scheyer's stickback with 5:42 left.
Sandwiched around that span was a 5-for-23 shooting start and an 0-for-11 finish, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range as the Tar Heels pushed ahead for good. Duke came in ranked second in the ACC for 3-point shooting (39 percent) and scoring (85 ppg).
Nelson, a senior averaging a team-high 15.5 points, never got going and finished with six points on 3-for-12 shooting. Greg Paulus finished with 15 points and four 3-pointers, but had only one 3 after the break and missed four shots in the decisive final minutes.
``We had a bunch of good looks,'' said Scheyer, who finished with 14 points but also went 0-for-4 after his final basket. ``We had had momentum going into those 6 minutes. The bottom line is we had some opportunities to hit shots and we didn't make them. They had opportunities and they made them.''

NCAAB Headlines

NCAAB Top Stories

Thumbnail Ohio St. goes with Holtmann In a surprising move last week, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a switch to their coach of the men’s basketball program. Will the...
Thumbnail Allen ranked No. 1 for 2017-18 ESPN has released its top players ranking for the 2017-18 season and the Duke Blue Devilsare listed with the No. 1 guy. How does it impact their odds to win the NCAA...

NCAAB Team Pages