• Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon didn’t start for the second time this season, as Tyler Thornton took his place. Coach Mike Krzyzewski had been critical of Sulaimon Friday, saying “He’s got to react a little bit differently, more energy, better defense, rebounding.” Thornton made his first attempt from the field, a 3-pointer that put Duke up 5-0. Sulaimon entered the game at the 15:13 mark and recorded just one first-half point and three rebounds. He did not score in the second half.
• With 13:37 left in the game, Tyler Thornton dove for a loose ball and threw it off of Reggie Bullock to give the Blue Devils possession. Plays like that are the reason Thornton got the start over Sulaimon.
• Even with Ryan Kelly playing just 11 first-half minutes, Duke’s offense was borderline unstoppable in the opening half. The Blue Devils shot 69.2 percent from the floor, and, at one point, were 13-for-16 from the floor. North Carolina was 4 for 16 and finished the half shooting 27.3 percent from the field.
• The 24 first-half points represented the second-lowest output for the Tar Heels this season – they scored 18 in the first 20 minutes against Butler in November. Entering the game, North Carolina was 1-4 when scoring fewer than 31 first-half points.
• Seth Curry had a hot hand early at Virginia Tech, scoring 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting, but he outdid that performance in the first half against the Tar Heels. Curry made his first seven shots, including a tough turnaround jumper as he was running the baseline and then a seated jumper as he slipped in the lane. The senior finished with 18 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Duke established Mason Plumlee early in the second half, as he scored the Blue Devils’ first 10 points. Four of them came on back-to-back ally-oops from Quinn Cook – one was finished through a foul, resulting in a 3-point play. His next basket came midway through the half on a dunk he turned into a reverse slam.
• The Tar Heels went to a 2-3 zone for two possessions in the second half when Seth Curry was on the bench for Duke. The move resulted in two Duke turnovers. Virginia Tech also had some success with a 2-3 zone against Duke, but a couple of 3-pointers broke that.
• At the end of the broadcast, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale paid tribute to recently retired News & Observer sports columnist Caulton Tudor.
“You know who I miss here, I’ll give a little plug here, Caulton Tudor,” Vitale said. “Terrific writer, retired, really should be here covering this game, finishing his career covering the ACC. We’ll miss you, Mr. Tudor. You’ve done a phenomenal job. I stole a lot of info from your columns.”