Tyus Jones again adds to his reputation as a big-game player

Tyus Jones again adds to his reputation as a big-game player

Flat on his stomach after a vicious fall on a driving layup attempt midway through the second half, Duke's Tyus Jones gritted his teeth in anguish.

That was nothing compared to the pain he unleashed on North Carolina once he returned to the game a few minutes later.

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Jones scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the final seven minutes Saturday night to help Duke complete a season sweep of rival North Carolina with an 84-77 victory. Among his biggest baskets were two that helped the Blue Devils gain some separation, the first a deep left-wing 3-pointer that extended Duke's lead to six and the second a driving layup a couple minutes later that pushed the lead to nine. He also assisted on a Quinn Cook transition 3-pointer in between those two baskets.

Shaking off back spasms to help finish off the Tar Heels only added to Jones' reputation as a big-game player.

The freshman point guard has torched North Carolina for a combined 46 points and 15 assists in his first two rivalry games. He also had 22 points in two of Duke's other biggest games this season, a road win at then-No. 2 Wisconsin back in December and a comeback victory at St. John's in January that gave Mike Krzyzewski his 1,000th victory.

Saturday's victory wasn't a milestone, but it did all but wrap up a No. 1 seed for Duke even if the Blue Devils (28-3, 15-3) win neither the ACC's regular season nor tournament titles. Duke's collection of quality wins compares so favorably to that of other No. 1 seed contenders that the Blue Devils can probably lose early in the ACC tournament and not have to worry about falling from the top seed line.

They're the only team to beat second-ranked Virginia in Charlottesville this season. They're the only team to beat Big Ten champion Wisconsin in Madison. They also boast a sweep of the Tar Heels, a road win at Louisville and a home win against Notre Dame.

It will frustrate North Carolina to go 0-for-2 against the Blue Devils this season because the Tar Heels were the better team for stretches of both games. They led by as many as seven points with 14:41 left in the second half Saturday night after a Marcus Paige 3-pointer, but the advantage proved to be very short-lived.

North Carolina slipped to fifth in the ACC with the loss, meaning it will have to win four games in four days to capture the conference tournament and it would have to survive Louisville in the quarterfinals just to reach the semifinals. Duke will get the No. 2 seed, which means a potential game against NC State in the quarterfinals.

One thing is certain about the Blue Devils: They'll feel better about any big game they play in March knowing Jones is on their side.

He shook off a bad fall to come up big yet again Saturday night.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!