Fifty-two seconds into the second half of Saturday night's rivalry game between Duke and North Carolina, Amile Jefferson drew a fourth foul on James Michael McAdoo and pointed directly at the Tar Heels forward.
Jefferson wanted to be sure referees didn't give the foul to anyone else because he knew how big it was to send McAdoo to the bench.
The Duke forward was right to take no chances because the fourth foul on McAdoo was the turning point in the Blue Devils' 93-81 victory. Whatever slim chance North Carolina had of at least holding Jabari Parker in check vanished the second McAdoo went to the bench.
Parker finished with a season-high 30 points and 11 rebounds, much of which came while McAdoo sat on the bench in foul trouble. Nine of Parker's points came in the final five minutes of the first half after he drew a third foul on McAdoo. Ten more points came in the 11-minute second-half stretch after McAdoo picked up his fourth.
What was especially encouraging about Parker's performance for Duke was how aggressive he was attacking the rim. Whereas the highly touted freshman settled for a lot of jump shots during a slump earlier in ACC play, he scored in a variety of ways on Saturday, sometimes overpowering smaller North Carolina defenders off the dribble, sometimes scoring via post moves or put-backs and occasonally stepping out behind the arc as well.
Parker's performance helped Duke avenge a loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill last month and get back on track after a stunning setback at Wake Forest earlier in the week. The Blue Devils (24-7, 13-5) snapped the Tar Heels' 12-game win streak and clinched the No. 3 seed in next week's ACC tournament.
North Carolina is locked into the No. 4 seed, not a bad outcome considering how it started the season. The Tar Heels were 1-4 in the ACC before forging an identity as a team that runs the floor, attacks the glass, defends and relies on McAdoo and Paige for half-court offense.
In addition to their inability to stop Parker or fellow forward Rodney Hood ( 24 points), North Carolina also was uncharacteristically ineffective on the glass. Duke had 16 offensive rebounds, perhaps partially a product of McAdoo's foul trouble and Kennedy Meeks being under the weather and only playing 12 minutes.
If Duke can rebound this way and get big games from Parker and Hood on the same night, the Devils can overcome their sometimes shaky defense and point guard play in March.
At its worst this season, Duke has lost at Wake Forest and Notre Dame and been pushed to the limit by Vermont. But the Blue Devils have also beaten UCLA, Michigan, Virginia, Syracuse and now North Carolina, which proves their best is pretty good too.