CHAPEL HILL He hit open shots and 3-pointers with a hand in his face, drove to the rim and spun open for jumpers, even hit sitters. Seth Curry slipped in the lane, fell backward onto his posterior and tossed the ball in the bucket anyway.
It took Curry more than 12 minutes to miss a shot. To paraphrase Seve Ballesteros, he make, he make, he make, he make, he make, he make, he make, he miss.
Currys first half to send Duke on to victory over North Carolina and a sweep of the season series was a college counterpart to his older brother Stephens 54-point NBA explosion against the Knicks last month. Difference is, Currys team won this one, 69-53.
For all the talk before the game about Ryan Kellys return and how the Tar Heels smaller lineup would fare against Kelly and Mason Plumlee, it was all Curry all night. He drove the lane to make it 7-0, hit a 3-pointer to make it 12-0 and pulled up for a jump shot to complete Dukes opening 14-0 run.
Curry had 18 points in the first half more than he scored in 13 games this season. He made 8 of 10 shots in the half, but he was hardly the only Blue Devil who couldnt miss. His teammates were 10 for 16, staking out an insurmountable 42-24 halftime lead.
They were so accurate Curry even managed to pick up two assists, even though it seemed like he scored every time he touched the ball. He did the same thing to N.C. State in Durham, scoring 10 of his 26 points in one stretch at the end of the first half.
As was the case that night, Curry was less of a factor in the second half not infrequent this season as his inability to practice because of chronic shin pain inevitably weakens his stamina.
Curry finished with 20 on Saturday as Plumlee took over in the second half, scoring Dukes first 10 points as the Blue Devils padded their lead. Theyd need it, as the Tar Heels made a late 10-2 run to get within 14, Curry missing a wide-open 3-pointer that would have snuffed it.
Technically, there wasnt anything on the line Saturday night, not with Duke locked into the No. 2 seed in Greensboro and North Carolina the No. 3 seed, but other than the obvious emotional investment, this quality win only reinforced Dukes case to stay close to home in the Philadelphia subregional and East bracket (Washington) in the NCAA tournament.
Thats important, because getting shipped out West and some very good team from the East Coast is going to get sent to Austin, Salt Lake City or San Jose early while at least one is going to end up in the West regional hasnt been kind to Duke over the years. Every good win and the way North Carolina has played lately, this was a very good win makes that less likely.
The Tar Heels missed out on a chance to legitimize their late-season surge by avenging the loss at Cameron, not to mention last years loss here on Austin Rivers final shot, but quite honestly, theres less at stake for them. Theyre at the mercy of the NCAA committee, and even a win Saturday wouldnt change that.
Still, the Tar Heels, who lost by five in Durham last month, may get another shot at the Blue Devils on Saturday in Greensboro. They have a week to figure out how to stop Curry before then.