Armando Bacot, No. 3 North Carolina roll past No. 7 Duke: What this says about the Tar Heels

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Armando Bacot posted his ninth double-double of the season to lead No. 3 North Carolina past No. 7 Duke, 93-84, in the latest installment of one of sports’ greatest rivalries Saturday. The 6-foot-11 senior punctuated his game-high 25-point, 10-rebound, five-assist night with a two-handed slam just before the final buzzer.

Tar Heels junior Harrison Ingram, in his first season in Chapel Hill after transferring from Stanford, had his highest-scoring game in a North Carolina uniform. Ingram added 21 points, 13 boards and a game-high four steals.

Bacot and Ingram are the first UNC teammates to post 20-point double-doubles in the same game since 1998, when eventual NBA All-Stars Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison did so in a 73-58 win over Michigan State.

Freshman Jared McCain paced the Blue Devils with 23 points, 11 rebounds and two steals – all team highs.

While four of five Duke starters scored in double figures, its bench only accounted for six points. Sophomore Kyle Filipowski added 22 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Jeremy Roach scored 20 points of his own.

The Tar Heels improve to 18-4 overall and 10-1 in ACC play. The Blue Devils fall to 16-5 and 7-3 in conference play. The teams will meet again on March 9 for the regular-season finale.

What went right for the Tar Heels?

With Duke face-guarding R.J. Davis, North Carolina’s leading scorer this season, for most of the game — he only had four points at halftime, the fewest of any Tar Heel who scored to that point — North Carolina had to adapt offensively.

That meant funneling much more offense through graduate center Bacot in the post. Bacot came into Saturday having scored single-digit points his last three games — the longest such stretch since his freshman season — but he got off to a strong start en route to his eventual game-high 25 points.

Then when Duke tried double-teaming him in the post, Bacot was comfortable kicking the ball out to teammates, including Ingram, who finished with 21 points and a career-high five 3s.

The Blue Devils simply didn’t have an answer for UNC’s offense, no matter who the Tar Heels were playing through. — Brendan Marks, Duke and North Carolina basketball staff writer

What this says about UNC on a national level

That they’re very much still national title contenders, even after this week’s road loss at Georgia Tech. North Carolina’s defense gave Duke problems all night — the Blue Devils made just five of their 19 3-point attempts, despite being one of the nation’s best shooting teams — while its offense hummed along as well as it has all season.

UNC entered the game fourth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, so that part wasn’t tremendously surprising, even against Duke’s top-20 offense. But the fact that the Tar Heels also dropped 93 points, averaging 1.329 points per possession in the process, says a lot about this group’s ability to hang with any type of opponent.

That’s a dangerous combination, and it’s the reason Hubert Davis’ team is the no-doubt frontrunner to win the ACC. And very possibly more. — Marks

Required reading

(Photo: Bob Donnan / USA Today)

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