Duke players let up as UNC turned it up
Posted February 21
As North Carolina prepared to take the court Thursday for their rivalry game against No. 5 Duke, head coach Roy Williams had one negative thought - he hoped they didn’t let the rowdy crowd down.
And when it was all said and done, the Carolina squad certainly did not.
"That's the craziest environment I've ever played in - home or away," said UNC guard Marcus Paige.
After the Tar Heels jumped out to a hot start, Duke responded to take a 37-30 halftime lead. And then it was North Carolina’s turn to respond and with 3:54 to go in the game Leslie McDonald hit the go ahead jumper en route to the 74-66 win.
“They just played a great second half and we didn't respond to it, the crowd, the team, the intensity, we couldn't match it,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We looked tired, or I don't know, we didn't have life... no matter what we did, we didn't have that spark.”
The sentiment was shared in the Duke locker room.
“We played a good thirty minutes of basketball and the last ten minutes we let up,” said guard Quinn Cook.
“Defensively, that’s where the game was lost,” said forward Rodney Hood. “I think we’ll do a better job next time."
“They were more enthusiastic… I think the energy was on their side, we let them get it,” said forward Jabari Parker. “Now we just gotta move on, we have Syracuse on Saturday, gotta learn from our mistakes. We can’t afford to do that again especially Saturday and the rest of the season.”
A disappointing second half for Duke was quite the opposite for North Carolina.
“Me and Marcus were just trying to ‘echo don’t give in’,” said forward James Michael McAdoo. “We knew that there was going to come a point in the game where one of the teams was going to give in.
“I’m exhausted… you can’t leave anything on the floor,” said Paige.
After a scoreless first half by Paige, he put up 13 points in the second half. Senior guard Leslie McDonald put up a career night with 21 points to carry the team.
“You see great players doing great things and making great plays in this rivalry, and just going out there and being able to give it my all and be in that type of environment, it means so much to me,” said McDonald.
But it wasn’t just the big names that stepped up, everyone contributed to the Tar Heels’ success.
“It was a bunch of guys that really fought really hard, and I couldn't be prouder of my team than I am right now,” said Williams. “It's really two teams that fought awfully hard and understand where they stand in this rivalry. It's a great, great rivalry and it's fun to be involved in it.”
Here’s to the rematch, March 8, 9 p.m. at Cameron Indoor.