The four-corner offense, which has served North Carolina so well in the past, cost it the ball game and perhaps more against Duke tonight.
The Tar Heels decided to go to the stall "offense" from the beginning and took only two shots the first half. They were behind, 7-3, at intermission, their frantic attempt at catching up failed as Duke won, 47-40, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
That left the teams cochampions of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season with 9-3 records. Who gets the all important first-round bye in the ACC Tournament starting Thursday will be determined by a draw Sunday morning.
Carolina Coach Dean Smith felt his team could not play with Duke if it didn't try something unexpectedly, so he tried the four corners.
It didn't work because Duke never panicked. Carolina cracked first and was never able to overcome that 7-0 lead.
Duke's Jim Spanarkel, playing his last game at Cameron, was sensational. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and missed only one shot all game.
Not many of his teammates were missing either, as Duke shot 74 percent. The reason was, the Blue Devils rarely took a chance on anything but layups.
Spanarkel provided most of the offense as he continually worked his way underneath for acrobatic layups.
The defeat was doubly costly for Carolina because Duke now has beaten it two out of three times this season and if a team other than Duke or North Carolina wins the ACC tournament, one of these two will not be invited to the NCAA tourney. Duke's two victories over Carolina should give it the nod should that happen.
Smith defended his slowdown. "I'd be happy to win, 2-0," he said. "It's the same as 82-80 as far as I know."
Duke Coach Bill Foster said, "I thought there would be more action, but we held our poise pretty weell."
After its 7-0 halftime lead, Duke was never in trouble, but the game was so intense that a near brawl broke out in the final 30 seconds.
Duke's Mike Gminski had just grabbed a rebound and, in protecting the ball, whacked Carolina's Al Wood in the face. Wood was knocked on his back and teammate Rich Yonakor went after Gminski. Players stepped between them, though, and nothing more happened. Wood was called for a foul and Gminski was assessed a flagrant personal foul and ejected from the game.
The game was decided in the first 20 minutes. Duke won the opening tip and scored quickly as Vince Taylor followed up on Gminski's missed shot.
Carolina then went into its four corners and held the ball for 12:22 before losing it.Yonaker's pass to Mike O'Koren was intercepted by Spanarkel and Duke scored on Gminski's free throw.
After Carolina held the ball another two minutes, Yonakor shot an air ball from eight feet.
Gminski's dunk gave Duke a 5-0 lead.
Yonakor next threw a pass out of bounds and Duke decided to stall. The Blue Devil held lthe ball for almost 3 1/2 minutes before Spanarkel drove for a layup with six seconds left in the half.
Dave Colescott missed a desperation heave at the buzzer and Duke led, 7-0, at intermission.
Carolina's first points of the game half, but that was playing into Duke's hands as Spanarkel scored seven of his team's next nine points and the Blue Devils had a 16-6 lead four minutes into the period.
Carolina's first points of the game came on O'Koren's two free throws 42 seconds into the second half.