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Off the cuff: I'm not sure I've seen Duke any more excited to beat Carolina. Nolan Smith said it was almost like winning the national championship.

The Blue Devils defense cut off the passing lanes and Smith seemed to never get tired hawking Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, who had five turnovers.

Duke was the better team and especially the better three-point shooting team but the officials amateurish effort kept Carolina from making any comeback.

Here are some examples from the last 10 minutes alone. With just over nine minutes left, Kyle Singler barreled into Justin Knox, nothing called. Two seconds later Miles Plumlee lost the handle on a shot but UNC's John Henson was called for a foul. If you have the game on tape, I urge you to try to find the Henson foul.

Carolina had a chance to cut the deficit down to 10 points but Duke defender Miles Plumlee, two feet from the basket mind you, moved into - that's moving forward into - a driving Justin Watts and Watts was called for a charge.

With less than five minutes to play, Nolan Smith used an arm to get Zeller off of him. The foul was called on Zeller and Smith hit two free throws.

With less than four minutes to play, Duke's Seth Curry reached in on a driving Leslie McDonald to tip the ball. McDonald managed to keep control but officials, obviously not having seen the Curry tip, called McDonald with double dribbling.

The officials also dampened Carolina's spirits in the first half when they waved off a Dexter Strickland dunk, calling him for a charge. That call was wrong on so many levels. First, Singler was too close to the basket to draw a charge. Second, Strickland actually went to the left of Singler and hardly even touched him. It certainly wasn't enough contact for a charge. The basket would have cut the Duke lead to five. Instead, the game never got closer.

TV announcers also amuse me. Zeller had the ball stripped from him by Curry and his shooting motion takes him naturally into Singler, who on the other hand purposely throws Zeller to the ground. Officials reviewed it and say there are not fouls. Fine, I guess. But Tim Brant and Mike Gminski both agreed that officials did the right thing and "let 'em play." Yet seconds later, UNC's McDonald ran alongside Nolan Smith, who are barely even touching each other. The officials call McDonald with a foul. Do the announcers say, "ah, let 'em play?" No. They just say, "That's a foul on McDonald." Oh, was it? Earlier, when Strickland dunked over Singler, only to be called for that phantom charge, we didn't hear the announcers say, "let 'em play."

Duke 75, Tar Heels 58
Carolina can't come back against Duke

You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit in the wind. You don't pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger. And you don't get down early to Duke, which defeated North Carolina 75-58 in the ACC tournament championship game. (3/13)

The Blue Devils, using a stiffling defense, ran out to an 8-0 lead and by the midway point of the first half were up 25-8 following a pair of threes by Andre Dawkins. Another Dawkins three late in the half gave Duke its biggest first-half lead at 40-22.

The Tar Heels, down 42-28 at the half, seemed to be more aggressive in the second half and appeared to actually be playing better than Duke. But the Tar Heels missed open shots and free throws and Duke hit threes and free throws, and the Devils managed to extend the lead to 15 midway through the second half.

Carolina did get the lead under 10 with six minutes to play after Harrison Barnes drilled a three from the corner and dropped in a jumper to make it 63-54. But Duke's Seth Curry put in a three from the left side and the Devils were back up by double figures.

Down by 10 with five minutes to go, the Tar Heels had an opportunity following a block by Tyler Zeller. Barnes got a good look at the basket from beyond the arc but missed it. Seconds later Duke's Ryan Kelly banged in a three and instead of it being a seven-point game, the lead was right back up to 13. It never got closer.

The Tar Heels made only two of eight threes while the Blue Devils converted nine of 20. That's a 21-point differential. Carolina wasn't much better from inside the three-point line as the Heels shot only 34 percent compared to 50 percent for the Devils. Duke's Nolan Smith led all scorers with 20 points while Barnes led Carolina with 16 points. Zeller had 14 and John Henson had 10 points and 18 rebounds.

North Carolina falls to 26-7 while Duke advances to 30-4.




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