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March 10, 2013CHAPEL HILL--- Senior Days have been kind to Roy Williams over the years, as his teams at Kansas and North Carolina had never lost a single home finale throughout Williams' quarter-century as a head coach.
That is, until Saturday night.
Duke came into the Smith Center and dominated from the opening tip on its way to a convincing 69-53 victory that gives the Blue Devils its first regular season sweep of Carolina in three years heading into the ACC Tournament.
"Every streak has to end," a somber Williams said after the game.
"Ten years as Coach (Dean) Smith's assistant and 25 years as a head coach, this is the first time I've ever lost a game on Senior Day. And I keep telling myself , I kept saying, 'Let's put it off one more year.''
"We didn't play nearly as well as we wanted to play, to say the least," Williams continued. "I would have really liked for Dexter (Strickland) to have had that feeling of walking out there and standing in that crowd, and it be a much different atmosphere than it was today."
The beginning of the game couldn't have been better scripted for Duke, as they made its first six shots and held UNC without a field goal over the first four minutes in building an early 14-1 lead.
It only got worse for the Tar Heels, as Duke shot over 70 percent through the first sixteen minutes of the game en route to building a 20-point lead (38-18) by the four-minute timeout just before the half.
"It was just like we weren't even out there. I mean, their shots, we weren't even up on them. They were uncontested," said James Michael McAdoo.
"They (Duke) got off to a great start. It reminded me of us playing over at their place last year," added Williams. "We got off to such a great start and never let them get back in the game basically (in last year's regular season finale in Durham), and that's what happened today. They made all those shots early. We didn't make very many shots, and one of the characteristics of this team the last three weeks is we've made shots."
In all the Blue Devils made 18 of 26 shots over the opening 20 minutes of the game (69.2 percent), compared to just nine of 33 shots for the Tar Heels (27.3 percent) as Duke built a 42-24 halftime lead.
"Obviously we played really well tonight. Really well. Our defense was outstanding," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "They (UNC) are a heck of a team. They missed some open shots. And we defended well. We defended well and didn't give up a lot of second shots."
"We were just out of synch (offensively). We were not really playing our game, trying to attack, not doing what we've been doing the past couple of games. We were just out of synch," said McAdoo.
"It was all in our heads. They're a great team (Duke), but we didn't execute. We didn't carry over what we've been working on in practice over to the game. We just didn't hit shots, and we were taking bad shots. It worked out for them---easy baskets."
Seth Curry was the guy who did most of the damage for Duke as they built its sizable halftime cushion, sinking his first seven shots on the night and eight of ten total in the first half for 18 points---just six fewer than the entire Tar Heel team.
"Seth Curry was a huge factor early. He toyed with us. He got any shot he wanted," said Williams.
In the second half Mason Plumlee came out like a man possessed for Duke, scoring four field goals in rapid succession to help the Blue Devils take its biggest lead of the night at 22 points before UNC attempted to make a rally.
Plumlee finished with a game-high 23 points in Duke's winning effort, while Curry added 20.
"Seth's performance in the first half---he was just the best player on the court in the first half. And in the second half we had the best player on the court in Mason," said Krzyzewski. "It just turned out on those two halves those two guys were really the difference-makers for us."
Plumlee's strong play early in the second half kept UNC from making any dent into the Duke lead even after Ryan Kelly picked up his third foul. It made no consequence, as Kelly attempted only four field goals, making two of them and finishing with eight points total.
The Tar Heels put together a brief 13-2 rally to cut the lead within 14 points in the final seven minutes but that's as close as Carolina would get, as Duke pushed the advantage back up to 18 points by the four-minute mark, resulting in a mass exodus of fans pouring out of the Smith Center as the clock wound down.
"It was an exceptionally tough day for us, to say the least. It was tough. It's not easy to sit there after somebody kicks your rear end like that," added Williams. "They (Duke) played well. Duke's defense was stronger than our offense was, and Duke's offense was stronger than our defense was. You just have to congratulate them. They played a heck of a lot better. They were by far the better team today."
UNC was paced by McAdoo, who scored 15 points on six-of-14 shooting, and 14 points from P.J. Hairston, although he shot just four-of-12 from the field.
McAdoo and Hairston were the only Tar Heels in double figures in scoring, and even though Carolina committed just 11 turnovers (compared to 15 for Duke), their abysmal 1-for-14 three-point effort against the Blue Devils is one they'll want to quickly forget about.
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they won't have long to dwell on Saturday night's setback to the Blue Devils, as they'll return to practice this coming week in preparation for Friday night's ACC Tournament quarterfinal game in Greensboro against either Clemson or Florida State.
UNC will practice at home in Chapel Hill Monday through Thursday, heading out to Greensboro Thursday evening, and they'll face the winner of the Tigers and Seminoles, who play in Thursday night's last game of the opening round.
The Tar Heels defeated both Clemson and FSU as part of its recent six-game winning streak that was snapped Saturday night against Duke, and with the postseason now here, they'll look to start a new winning streak at the best possible time.
Should Carolina win on Friday night, they could very well get a rematch against Duke Saturday afternoon in the ACC Tournament semifinals---a chance for quick redemption.
Certainly UNC's players would relish a rematch after what happened Saturday night, but the Tar Heels can't afford to forget about FSU or Clemson.