Duke vs. North Carolina score, takeaways: Tar Heels snap Blue Devils' three-game rivalry winning streak

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There were no fans inside at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and neither team was ranked for the first time since 1960, but this season's first rendition of the Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry lived up the standards of the series anyway. In the end, the Tar Heels rode their best offensive performance of the season past Duke for an 91-87 victory that the Tar Heels sorely needed.

Duke (7-7, 5-5 ACC) enjoyed its highest scoring output of the year as well but languished defensively against a North Carolina team that was lethal both in the paint and in the perimeter just four days after scoring only 50 points in an ugly loss to Clemson. Freshman guard Caleb Love led the way for the Tar Heels (12-6, 7-4) with a career-high 25 points, giving UNC the explosive guard-play it had lacked for much of the season to this point.

Still, a Duke team that got just seven points from leading scorer Matthew Hurt, stayed on UNC's heels all the way until the final buzzer. Freshman forward Jalen Johnson drove to the basket with a chance to tie the game, but was whistled for a travel with eight seconds left. From there, North Carolina iced the game at the free-throw line.

While a pair of late free throws from Leaky Black secured the outcome, a surprising dose 3-point shooting propelled the Tar Heels for much of the game. UNC entered ranking among the worst in the ACC and nationally in most 3-point shooting metrics but made 10-of-15 from beyond the arc, with Love and Kerwin Walton combining to make 8-of-9 to counter Duke's 11-of-25 night from 3-point range.

It was important victory for the Tar Heels, who were in the "first four out" of Jerry Palm's Bracketology before picking up the victory.

UNC has to like that Love turned a corner

The book on North Carolina this season has been that the Tar Heels are a one-dimensional team loaded with interior threats but lacking a consistent perimeter presence. Much of that narrative has centered around the inconsistent play of Love, who entered the game averaging 10.3 points but shooting just 30.4% from the floor. But the No. 14 ranked player in the 247Sports Composite from the 2020 class seemed to be turning a corner the last couple of weeks, and he may have rounded it completely on Saturday. Love scored 15 of his 25 points in the second half and dished out seven assists for the game while outplaying counterpart DJ Steward. UNC won't get a scoring outburst like that from Love every game, but if it can get a confident, efficient version of him, it will go a long way toward helping this team make the NCAA Tournament.

Hurt's absence painul for Blue Devils

Hurt's seven points were a season-low and marked the first time this season he failed to reach double figures. Duke's top scorer got going with with a few makes in the second half after going scoreless in the first. But when he fouled out with more than four minutes left, the Blue Devils were left without their top offensive option in the game's most important moments. The 22 minutes Hurt played were his fewest of the season.

Even contributions for the Heels

Love will get the headlines from the game, and rightfully so. But it should be acknowledged that UNC's post players came through in a big way, too. After allowing 11 second-chance points in the first half, the Tar Heels tightened things up on the boards and allowed just four second-chance points in the second half. The better rebounding effort coincided with a big second half from Armando Bacot, who scored 12 of his 16 after halftime. Garrison Brooks added 12 and Day'Ron Sharpe contributed 11 to give the trio of bigs a total of 39 points on 16-of-26 shooting. Rather than fall in love with 3-pointers after making 6-of-9 in the first half, UNC set the tone for the second half by working the ball inside, which allowed the Tar Heels to continue earning quality looks from the perimeter.

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DUKE -2.5, o147
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DUKE -2.5, O/U 147

Season Leaders

points
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C. Love 16.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, 4.0 REB
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C. Love 16.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, 4.0 REB
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P. Banchero 17.8 PTS, 1.9 AST, 7.3 REB
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P. Banchero 17.8 PTS, 1.9 AST, 7.3 REB
assists
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C. Love 16.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, 4.0 REB
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C. Love 16.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, 4.0 REB
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W. Moore Jr. 17.8 PTS, 5.6 AST, 6.5 REB
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W. Moore Jr. 17.8 PTS, 5.6 AST, 6.5 REB
rebounds
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A. Bacot 15.0 PTS, 1.6 AST, 9.9 REB
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A. Bacot 15.0 PTS, 1.6 AST, 9.9 REB
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P. Banchero 17.8 PTS, 1.9 AST, 7.3 REB
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P. Banchero 17.8 PTS, 1.9 AST, 7.3 REB
Live updates
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February 7, 2021, 1:23 AM
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February 7, 2021, 1:16 AM
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FINAL: North Carolina 91, Duke 87. Duke moves to 7-7 (5-5 ACC) while UNC moves to 12-6 (7-4 ACC).

February 7, 2021, 1:14 AM
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UNC goes up 91-87. Two possession game with 7.2 seconds.

February 7, 2021, 1:13 AM
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Wendell Moore gets all the way to the hoop, goes up, then doesn't do anything with it. Just came right back down. That's a travel.

February 7, 2021, 1:12 AM
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UNC has a foul to give, and indeed it gives one.

February 7, 2021, 1:11 AM
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@UNC_Basketball via Twitter
February 7, 2021, 1:10 AM
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Black makes one of his two free throws. Duke gets the ball with 14.6 seconds trailing by two.

February 7, 2021, 1:09 AM
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Duke fouls UNC trailing 88-87. Leaky Black shooting two.

February 7, 2021, 1:08 AM
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UNC up 88-87 and with possession. Coming down to the wire.

February 7, 2021, 1:08 AM
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UNC in the double bonus now from here out. Caleb Love to the line.

February 7, 2021, 1:05 AM
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One possession game for Duke, trailing 86-83. UNC keeps throwing punches, Duke keeps countering.

February 7, 2021, 1:04 AM
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Matthew Hurt has fouled out. Hasn't been a huge factor -- just seven points, well below his average -- but a huge loss for Duke. UNC's frontcourt has been an absolute monster so losing size for the Blue Devils isn't ideal.

February 7, 2021, 12:54 AM
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Wow, Matthew Hurt just fouled out. He's only got 7, but it's hard to overstate the significance of losing your leading scorer with so much time still remaining. Blue Devils have it tied up at 77, but that will suck some wind from the sails at the 4:16 mark.

February 7, 2021, 12:54 AM
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If you happened to be tuning in to see Duke or UNC for the first time, you wouldn't necessarily realize that these teams have been...bad...for much of this season. The offense is flowing, the freshmen are shining. The basketball has been (dare I say it?) good this afternoon.

February 7, 2021, 12:52 AM
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Every time UNC takes a big lead, Duke chips away at it. Duke just hanging around .... hanging around ...

February 7, 2021, 12:51 AM
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Right on cue, Walton hits his fourth 3-pointer of the game! 77-72 UNC.

February 7, 2021, 12:49 AM
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Where has Kerwin Walton gone? 3-for-3 from deep for UNC but is nowhere to be found in this second half. Would think he could get free on the perimeter now with how consistently UNC is getting the ball inside.

February 7, 2021, 12:49 AM
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Great game and great finish coming, but man the Crazies would be going nuts right now if our world were right. Love 'em or hate 'em, it would be wild either way.

February 7, 2021, 12:45 AM
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Neither of these teams is top-100 nationally in points per game, but both are going to blow past their season averages. 72-70 as we hit the u8 timeout. Duke's offense is coming alive. Teams have hit a combined 18 3-pointers, Buckle up.

February 7, 2021, 12:44 AM
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@DukeMBB via Twitter
February 7, 2021, 12:43 AM
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Hurt finally on the board, but Jalen Johnson and Jeremy Roach are carrying the offensive load for Duke. Blue Devils within 69-64 at the 8:42 mark.

February 7, 2021, 12:41 AM
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A sign of good coaching, TBH, that UNC has attempted just one 3-pointer so far this half after hitting 6 in the first half. That was never going to get this team to the finish line. Duke hanging around though as Jalen Johnson hits a 3. 64-57 with 11:35 left at the u12 timeout.

February 7, 2021, 12:33 AM
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If Carolina can get a version of Caleb Love that resembles today's version moving forward, this team will be a threat.

February 7, 2021, 12:28 AM
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