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Off the cuff: That was a bit of bust for a senior night. Two of the seniors - Desmond Hubert and Sasha Seymore - were injured and the other two - Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis - played three minutes and did nothing.

While that's not the most important thing, it was gloomy watching the post-game tribute as disappointed Tar Heel fans exited the arena.

ESPN's Steve Levy, bucking the national trend of sports journalists dissing the Carolina fan base, said in the first half and for a good portion of the second half, it was as ear-splitting as any arena he's ever been to.

Yet the Tar Heels couldn't get it done. UNC coach Roy Williams noted that after losing two of the last three senior nights, he needs to get back to doing whatever he was doing before. You see, he won 10 straight senior nights as an assistant coach and then 24 straight senior nights as a head coach.

Considering that none of the seniors were impact players, again, it's not as big a deal that the Tar Heels lost as it is that the Tar Heels lost to Duke - again.

Marcus Paige was ineffective in the first game against Duke while Kennedy Meeks was ineffective in this one - scoring just two points on a one-for-seven performance.

If Carolina is to advance in the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament, they are going to have to have more consistent performance from their key players.

One such player is Joel Berry. Just a game ago, we were talking about how he had found his outside stroke and could help take some of the pressure of Paige from the perimeter.

In this game against Duke, he was zero for three from the floor with four fouls and two turnovers in just seven minutes of play. It was also telling that one of those turnovers came in the last minute when he was hell bent on getting the ball to Paige. With time running out, he should be a secondary option to Paige and should have generated a shot for himself.

It doesn't look as if anyone will - or at least should - turn pro. This should be a better team next year. A year from now if the Tar Heels lose on senior night it will be even more devastating as fans say goodbye to Paige, Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto and Joel James.

But it's always tough to lose to Duke, especially at home.

Duke 84, Tar Heels 77
UNC turns it over, Duke turns it around

North Carolina, leading by two at the half and by seven with fewer than 15 minutes to play, turned the ball over and Duke turned it around with a 14-2 run from which the Tar Heels never recovered. The Blue Devils went on to ruin UNC's senior night with an 84-77 victory. (3/7)

With the win, Duke, with 24 points from Tyus Jones and 20 points from Quinn Cook, swept the regular season series.

It didn't look that way for much of the game. The Smith Center was rocking after Marcus Paige drilled a transition three to give the Tar Heels their biggest lead at 49-42 with 14:35 left.

But after that, the Tar Heels went cold, hitting just one of their next six shots, and turning the ball over, time and time again (10 times in the second half). Meanwhile, Duke, with Justice Winslow in foul trouble and Tyus Jones playing with a back injured during the game, took over.

Bench players Matt Jones and Grayson Allen hit consecutive threes that put the Blue Devils ahead 56-51 midway through the second half.

Three times the Tar Heels pulled within a point but if a turnover didn't spoil the chance to take a lead, a Blue Devil triple did.

After a Carolina turnover, Tyus Jones hit a three to put Duke up 65-59 and then, after another turnover, Quinn Cook hit a three to put the Devils up 68-59 with 6:18 left.

"We had a tough stretch in there with three straight turnovers and all of a sudden it's a nine-point game," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They're really good. But we played pretty doggone well except for a four of five minute stretch there."

It was a even game statistically, except Duke got to the foul line more (21 made, compared to 13 for Carolina) and turned the ball over less (10 compared to 15 for Carolina).

Paige, who played poorly in the loss at Duke, played better in this game, scoring 23 to lead the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson had 17, Justin Jackson 14 and JP Tokoto scored 10 although he also had four turnovers.

To start the game, the Blue Devils hit their first five shots including threes by Tyus Jones and Cook, the same two that killed the Tar Heels in Durham. Just five minutes in, Duke had a double-digit lead at 18-8.

An 8-0 run, highlighted by a Justin Jackson three and a Brice Johnson old-fashioned three-point play, got the Tar Heels back in it.

Threes by Nate Britt and Paige erased a 24-20 Duke lead and gave Carolina its first lead since the first basket of the game at 26-24.

The Tar Heels got the lead to six before settling for a 33-31 halftime lead. It looked as if it would be another one of those games that came down to the last minute. But this one was really never in doubt over the last six minutes although a Paige three with 45 seconds left drew the Heels to within five and they had a chance to cut it to three or two before once again turning the ball over.

Coach Williams said he had to do a better job of getting his team to focus but he's running out of time with only the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament left.

The Tar Heels, 21-10 and 11-7 in the league, are the fifth seed in the ACC tournament and will play Wednesday afternoon against the winner of Boston College and Georgia Tech. No. 2 seeded Duke, 28-3 and 15-3 in the ACC, gets a bye until the quarterfinals on Thursday.


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