CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Freshman Coby White scored 21 points and third-ranked North Carolina hung on late to beat fourth-ranked Duke 79-70 on Saturday to clinch a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.
Senior Kenny Williams scored a season-high 18 points for the Tar Heels (26-5, 16-2), who led by 15 with about 6½ minutes left but had to hold off a rally from their fiercest rival – who played yet again without injured freshman star Zion Williamson. Duke lost starting big man Marques Bolden early in this one, too.
The Tar Heels bumbled their way to the finish after building their big lead, letting the Blue Devils (26-5, 14-4) get as close as 75-70 on RJ Barrett’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left. Ultimately UNC held on, earning its first regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils since 2009.
Barrett scored 26 points to lead the Blue Devils, who shot just 23 percent after halftime.
Duke: There’s no doubt the Blue Devils are a different team without Williamson, a national player of the year candidate and possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick if he goes pro. The question is how soon he might be back, with Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski expressing optimism that he could be back for next week’s ACC Tournament in Charlotte. Without him, Barrett and Cam Reddish (23 points) had to carry the load offensively and had trouble keeping up with UNC once the Tar Heels got rolling.
UNC: The Tar Heels shot just 41 percent and 7 of 13 from the foul line. They also won despite going the last 6:47 without a field goal, so things were hardly perfect. Yet the 11-0 burst that finally jarred the Tar Heels loose in a tight game was a display of why the Tar Heels have lost just twice in league play: fast-paced, explosive and at times withering for opponents to chase down. And they were tough enough to hang on when Duke threatened to climb back in it.
Duke: The Blue Devils have a bye as the No. 3 seed into Thursday’s quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament.
UNC: The Tar Heels have a bye as the No. 2 seed into Thursday’s quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament.