Although North Carolina had lost six of its past seven games before Wednesday, the atmosphere at the Smith Center was sensational.
Students arrived early to heckle Duke's players, starting with Nolan Smith - the first guy out of the locker room. The crowd was fired up for Tyler Hansbrough's return for his jersey retirement and was louder by a long shot than it has been for any other game this season.
The most coveted signee in the class of 2010 had a great seat for the game.
Top-ranked recruit Harrison Barnes, who made official visits to North Carolina and Duke before signing with the Tar Heels, sat in the first row immediately behind coach Roy Williams.
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Barnes picked a good time to leave his hometown of Ames, Iowa. Although it seemed cold in Chapel Hill at 33 degrees at tipoff, Ames was downright frigid at 1 degree below zero.
In a three-second period in the first half, North Carolina freshman John Henson demonstrated why he was so highly recruited - and why he belongs at power forward.
Henson soared for consecutive blocked shots against Smith and then Lance Thomas. That shot-blocking ability is wasted when he's defending on the perimeter as a small forward.
Duke freshman center Mason Plumlee played one of his best games of the season, and his performance was crucial with Thomas sidelined because of a knee injury for most of the second half.
Plumlee scored seven points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out two assists.