Basketball·Recap

Barrett's 26 points not enough as Duke falls to UNC again

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.

Blue Devils phenom Zion Williamson misses another game with knee sprain

North Carolina's Kenny Williams drives to the basket as Duke's R.J. Barrett defends during the first half of the Tar Heels' 79-70 victory against the Blue Devils on Saturday. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

Third-ranked North Carolina took down its biggest rival again, this time to earn a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.

Freshman Coby White scored 21 points and UNC hung on late to beat fourth-ranked Duke 79-70 on Saturday, securing their first regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils in a decade.

Senior Kenny Williams scored a season-high 18 points for the Tar Heels (26-5, 16-2), who led by 15 with about 6 1/2 minutes left but had to hold off a rally by the Blue Devils, who played yet again without injured freshman star Zion Williamson. Duke lost starting big man Marques Bolden early in this one to his own knee injury.

Afterward, the Tar Heels stayed on the court as Williams, fellow senior Luke Maye and graduate student Cameron Johnson gave their Senior Night speeches after their final home game. Then coach Roy Williams told the crowd that had stuck around long after the horn that they were going to cut down nets.

"It's OK if you need to go, it's all right," Williams said as arena staff brought ladders onto the court. "Because we're going to have fun ourselves. We're going to cut down that frickin' net as ACC champions."

First sweep in a decade

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 to finish tied alongside second-ranked Virginia atop the final league standings.

Virginia secured the No. 1 seed for the league tournament by beating Louisville earlier Saturday. The Cavaliers owned the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Tar Heels by winning in Chapel Hill last month — which is UNC's only loss since mid-January.

UNC had last swept the two-game set with Duke on Tyler Hansbrough's Senior Day in 2009 for a team that went on to win the NCAA title.

"We were down by 15 and we put ourselves in a position where we had a chance," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I'm proud of the fact that our guys put us in that position. ... We be OK if we keep doing that."

Barrett leads Blue Devils

Barrett scored 26 points to lead the Blue Devils, who shot just 23 per cent after halftime.

Duke came in shorthanded with Williamson out for the fifth straight game since suffering a sprained right knee early in last month's first meeting with the Tar Heels. On Friday, Krzyzewski had said Williamson had gotten in his "first really good workout" on Thursday as he continued his recovery. The next step, he said, was working on Williamson's conditioning and getting him used to contact again.

Then things got tougher when the Blue Devils lost Bolden roughly 2 1/2 minutes when he fell into the basket support while picking up a foul on a block attempt at the rim. He had to be helped off the court and straight to the tunnel, and didn't return with what Krzyzewski said afterward was a sprained ligament in his left knee.

Cam Reddish was terrific in the first half with 17 points to help Barrett, the ACC's leading scorer who has been left as the no-doubt lead weapon for Duke's offence with Williamson out.

Barrett got into foul trouble by picking up his third foul late in the first half and finished with four fouls, three coming on charges drawn by Williams.

"It's not the greatest feeling losing to them," Duke freshman point guard Tre Jones said. "But just as a team, we've got to learn from this loss for sure."

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