Duke 69, North Carolina 53

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Mason Plumlee scored 23 points and Seth Curry added 20 points, lifting third-ranked Duke, which scored the first 14 points of the game, to a 69-53 trouncing of rival North Carolina in Saturday night's regular-season finale at the Smith Center.
There wasn't much more than bragging rights at stake for the Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, though the outcome should help Duke's quest for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament.
James Michael McAdoo scored 15 points and P.J. Hairston had 14 points for North Carolina (22-9, 12-6), which had won a season-best six games in a row since falling to Duke (27-4, 14-4) last month.
Even though it entered the weekend locked into the No. 2 seed for the ACC Tournament, Duke's chances of sharing the regular-season crown with Miami were dashed earlier in the day when the Hurricanes defeated Clemson.
Meanwhile, North Carolina's position as the No. 3 seed was solidified a few hours earlier when Florida State topped North Carolina State.
With that, if both teams win their next games in Friday night's ACC Tournament quarterfinals, they'll meet again in the semifinals.
Duke's Quinn Cook added 12 points. Plumlee finished with 13 rebounds.
North Carolina swingman Reggie Bullock, who had averaged a team-best 15.3 points per game in ACC outings, was scoreless in the first half. He scored on the first possession of the second half and finished with eight points.
The Tar Heels missed their first 11 attempts from 3-point range. When Hairston bagged the team's first 3-pointer, it capped a 13-2 run that drew North Carolina within 63-49 with 5 minutes left.
Cook answered with the next two baskets to repel the threat.
Duke senior Ryan Kelly, playing in his only true road game of the season, wasn't much of a factor compared to his first two games back since an ankle injury sidelined him for nearly two months. He picked up three first-half fouls, finishing with eight points.
Duke had lost two of its last three games away from home, defeating only last-place Virginia Tech during that stretch.
North Carolina's point total was one more than its previous low this season in a 61-52 loss at Virginia in its ACC opener.
Duke stormed to a 20-point lead on the strength of torrid shooting before settling for a 42-24 halftime edge. Curry had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting by the break.
Holding a 26-9 advantage, Curry had 13 points, which were two more points than he had in the previous matchup with the Tar Heels.
The Blue Devils shot 69.2 percent (18-for-26) in the first half compared to North Carolina's 27.3 percent (9-for-23).
With the score at 28-11, Duke had made 13-of-16 shots from the field, with Curry accounting for 7 for 7.
Guard Tyler Thornton, making only his fifth start of the season, hit a 3-point shot in the first minute as part of Duke's game-opening 12-0 run. A turnover on the next possession prompted North Carolina coach Roy Williams to call timeout at the 17:04 mark, an unusual move for the veteran coach who likes to save his timeouts.
The margin grew to 14-0 before McAdoo made a free throw with 16:27 showing on the clock. McAdoo scored seven of North Carolina's first 11 points.
NOTES: North Carolina honored senior guard Dexter Strickland in a pregame Senior Night ceremony. He's the lone scholarship senior on the roster. ... Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon had been in the starting lineup for all except one game this season until he came off the bench Saturday night. Sulaimon shot a combined 7 for 21 the previous three games. ... Thornton was 3 for 4 on 3-pointers in last month's game against North Carolina. He had scored a total of 15 points in the six games since then. ... North Carolina has a 132-104 edge in the all-time series. ... Prior to Saturday, North Carolina had won six of the last seven regular-season finales against Duke. ... Duke has a top-3 finish in the ACC for the 16th time in a 17-year span. ... McAdoo, a sophomore forward, missed some recent practice time because of soreness in his back, but he was in the starting lineup Saturday night. ... Last year's meeting between the teams in Chapel Hill involved a much-replayed winning 3-point shot by then-Duke freshman Austin Rivers.

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