Talking Points: Heels battle, Devils win ugly
Posted February 14, 2013
1. North Carolina came out with focus and attitude, building a lead that would last a few minutes into the second half. Duke struggled from beyond the arc, turned the ball over 17 times and got tentative play from Mason Plumlee for a decent chunk of the night thanks to foul trouble.
Pretty much how everyone expected this chapter of the rivalry to go on Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor stadium, right? Well, not exactly. Those clichés about record books being thrown out apparently have some merit.
2. While Duke won an ugly contest, the more intriguing story line revolves around North Carolina's smaller starting lineup and what Roy Williams decides to do with P.J. Hairston going forward.
"It’s popular to say who the hell is supposed to be in the lineup when you don’t know what in the dickens you’re talking about," bristled Williams following the game.
He went on to suggest the move to start Hairston was more situational because of the matchup and joked that he might start five different guys against Virginia.
Williams tightened up the minutes for his bench and allowed his starters to play for 30 or more minutes each. Leslie McDonald came off the bench to play 20 minutes. J.P. Tokoto, Jackson Simmons, Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert combined for 12 minutes of court time.
When asked about the minutes, Williams again refused to tip his hand about the future of his player rotations.
"I'm going to play the guys that I want at that specific time, and we may play five guys 40 minutes on Saturday or play twelve in the first half," said Williams.
Williams' reasoning is absolutely sound given Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston aren't offensive threats, which allowed for the smaller lineup and decent rebounding margin. However, the seal on Hairston is now broken and fans won't want it any other way. Especially given his overall effort and scoring.
3. North Carolina wasn't in the mood for talk of moral victories, but Williams and the players came away from the loss against Duke pleased with their fight. However, the Tar Heels can't just do that against Duke. It's easy to get fired up and play with a sense of urgency against a rival.
It's up to the players to realize the investment of effort shown on Wednesday night, despite the loss, is what they need to do the rest of the season. The NCAA Tournament isn't a given, but it's there for the taking thanks to the ACC having a soft middle.
4. Mike Krzyzewski dubbed Tyler Thornton the "hero" during his post game press conference. He'll find little argument with that claim thanks to Thornton's 3-pointers and defensive effort.
As the Blue Devils struggled from beyond the arc, Thornton kept Duke within striking distance with three big shots from the corner. Before the Blue Devils took the lead just over 5 minutes into the 2nd half with Seth Curry's first 3-pointer of the night, Thornton was the only player to hit from the perimeter.
5. Krzyzewski and his assistants were not amused by North Carolina's brashness in the opening half, which included icy stares from James Michael McAdoo after dunks and a big "woooo" from Reggie Bullock directed at the bench after knocking down a 3-pointer.