CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Third-ranked North Carolina played with confidence and a physical edge to build a lead against rival Duke, then never flinched in protecting its edge no matter how many times the seventh-ranked Blue Devils made a push.
When it was over, RJ Davis took a moment to savor a quick goodbye wave to them in front of a roaring home crowd.
“Yeah, I did,” he said with a grin, “just for the fun rivalry.”
Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram each posted double-doubles to help No. 3 North Carolina beat No. 7 Duke 93-84 on Saturday night in the latest renewal of the rivalry between neighboring programs with a combined 11 NCAA championships.
The 6-foot-11 Bacot finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while the 6-7 Ingram was a force all over the court with 21 points, 13 rebounds and four steals. It was an example of how much more productive and deeper the rotation is after an offseason overhaul, which has helped UNC (18-4, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) push to the top of the league standings.
“There’s a hunger and thirst with this group, individually and as a team, to be the best it can be,” third-year coach Hubert Davis said.
UNC remained in control on a night when ACC scoring leader Davis faced constant defensive attention before coming on late to score 17 points despite 5-of-14 shooting.
Ingram was busy everywhere. He made 5 of 9 3-pointers, including one from the corner with Jeremy Roach within breath’s reach, then had a dive-on-the-floor play in the paint to save a possession and ultimately set up a corner 3-pointer from Cormac Ryan.
Bacot made 10 of 13 shots and also had five assists while staying out of foul trouble in a marquee post matchup with Duke star Kyle Filipowski.
“I knew coming into this game I would have a big game,” Bacot said. “I told my mom before the game, ‘I think I’m going to get like 20 and 10.”
It was part of a night in which UNC played with tenacity backed by a crowd roaring at ear-ringing levels to put the Blue Devils (16-5, 7-3) in a night-long uphill climb in the first matchup with both teams ranked since the 2018-19 season.
The Tar Heels led 45-35 at halftime, and never let Duke closer than seven after halftime until the final minute by consistently coming up with timely scores or rebound-sealing stops.
Freshman Jared McCain had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils, while Filipowski added 22 points. But second-year coach Jon Scheyer was disappointed in what he felt was a team that didn’t match UNC’s edge, particularly mentioning getting on the floor for loose balls.
“You can play really well and compete your butt off and still lose to them because they’re a really good team,” Scheyer said. “But we didn’t compete to the level that you need to to have a chance to beat this team tonight. And that’s what I’m disappointed about.”
Duke: The Blue Devils arrived with plenty of momentum after going 7-1 in January. Duke did plenty right offensively (shooting 50.7%) but the Blue Devils made just 5 of 19 3-pointers and committed 11 turnovers — the biggest when Tyrese Proctor threw away an inbounds to Ryan with Duke down 88-80 with 43 seconds left — that led to 19 points for the Tar Heels.
UNC: The Tar Heels started 9-0 in ACC play for their best start in 23 years before Tuesday’s loss at Georgia Tech ended their overall win streak at 10 games. This was a big way to get back on track.
Duke: The Blue Devils host Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
UNC: The Tar Heels host Clemson on Tuesday night.
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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball