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Off the cuff: Yes, Zion Williamson went down and yes, Barack Obama was at the game but after a while you have to get sick of hearing about it.

It was a tough situation that Duke's best player went down but if the Devils are relying that heavily on one player, it's unlikely they'll win the ACC title or the NCAA title.

And one mention of Obama being at the game is enough. The game isn't about him or anyone else watching the game.

There was even a question of UNC coach Roy Williams from a journalist about Obama but nothing about the problems Carolina was having getting the ball up the court as Duke cut the lead from 22 points to 13.

Losing Williamson was huge. The anticipation of seeing Williamson was overplayed by the media. But this is about Carolina-Duke, regardless of who is playing. There is too much emphasis on the name on the back of the jersey than the name on the front.

Duke and Carolina both fought hard. It was a sloppy game at times (Duke 20 turnovers, Carolina 15) but it was a high caliber game. If I'm UNC coach Williams, before the next game against Duke at Carolina, I'm telling my players that everyone thinks the Heels would have lost had Williamson played.

The Tar Heels deserve credit for the win. Carolina got 62 points in the paint, with many coming on fastbreak points. One player wouldn't have been able to stop the Tar Heels team. Carolina held Duke to 28 points in the paint.

And Carolina didn't play their best and beat the No. 1 team in the nation at their place.

UNC point guard Coby White looked like a freshman, turning the ball over six times against only three assists. He hit only three of 14 from the field. The hardest part was watching him trying to get to the inbounds pass or watching out for the double team.

He did hit a big three right in front of the Carolina bench. It was only one of two threes the Heels got on the night - one game removed from hitting a season-high 16 threes.

Caroina was one of 14 in the first half and one of six in the second half to go just two of 20 from beyond the arc. If the Heels had only hit 25 percent of threes, which is well below their average, they'd have won by 25 points and would have had the game all but wrapped up by halftime.

Carolina had let a 13-point lead (30-17) dwindle to six in the last minute of the first half before a four-point spurt put them in the locker room with a double-digit lead.

With 40 seconds left in the half, Cam Johnson hit a pair of free throws and then defensively forced Cam Reddish into a long, off-balanced three that missed with 15 seconds left.

Johnson missed a fastbreak layup with nine seconds left. But Seventh Woods stole a Duke pass with five seconds left and drove down, dishing to Garrison Brooks for a dunk at the buzzer. The Heels kept a double-digit margin the rest of the game.

Tar Heels 88, Duke 72
Seniors lead Heels over young Dukies

North Carolina seniors Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the Tar Heels to an 88-72 upset at No. 1 Duke, who played all but 36 seconds without super freshman Zion Williamson. (2/20)

Without the injured Williamson clogging up the paint, Carolina went inside for points, especially after the Heels missed their first 12 three-point shots of the game.

Maye and Johnson combined for 30 of Carolina's 42 first half points with only three coming from beyond the arc. In fact, the Heels had a 34-18 edge in points in the paint en route to a 42-32 halftime lead.

Just 36 seconds into the game, Williamson slipped while dribbling across the free throw line, with his foot splitting right through the shoe. The knee took the brunt of the twisting fall.

"Let's be honest," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "When the big fella goes out of the game it changes a lot for them. I hated that - it was a huge blow for them."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed, saying that they had prepared for the game based on having Williamson, who is expected to be picked first in the NBA draft, in the game.

"He and R.J. (Barrett) are the key guys," Coach K said. "It's tough trying to figure it out while playing an outstanding team."

Carolina took even more control of the game in the first few minutes of the second half. A 17-5 run in the first four minutes had the Heels in command by 22 points at 59-37. Johnson scored eight during that run but was shaken up and out of the game for a couple of minutes after taking a hard fall on a fastbreak layup.

Duke stayed in it by hitting four of its next five shots, including two three-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play by Cam Reddish to cut the deficit to 15.

Even with an effective pressure defense that rattled UNC freshman point guard Coby White, who turned the ball over six times, the Devils never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

One key stretch, led by backup point guard Seventh Woods, kept the Devils at bay. Woods hit a drive-by layup, hit a free throw, went coast to coast for a layup and drew a charge. After UNC's Brandon Robinson's pass to Garrison Brooks for a bucket, the Heels were in command by 19 points at 76-57 with 6:35 left.

But it was Maye, who scored 30 points and hauled in 15 rebounds, and Johnson, who had 26 points, that received the most praise from both coaches who each independently called the veteran leaders "sensational."

Maye was aggressive inside while Johnson hit mid-range jumpers and drove to the hoop to create buckets. The only other Tar Heel in double figures was Brooks, who scored 14 points and collected eight rebounds.

The lead moves the Tar Heels into a three-way tie with Duke and Virginia for first place in the ACC.

Carolina improves to 21-5 and 11-2 in the conference while Duke, led by freshman R.J. Barrett's 33 points, falls to 23-3 overall and 11-2 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels host Florida State Saturday afternoon while Duke plays at Syracuse Saturday evening.

Box score

UNC's Luke Maye muscles in for two against the Blue Devils. (UNC Sports Information photo.)

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