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Duke punches first, takes down bitter rival UNC

Duke and North Carolina is one of the most popular rivalries in the country. Tonight the Blue Devils walked away with the victory and bragging rights until the two meet again.

NCAA Womens Basketball: South Carolina at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Durham, NC — It is a rivalry as old as tobacco road itself: Duke v. UNC. The tension and excitement vibrated within the Cameron Indoor Stadium as the No. 12 Duke Blue Devils faced the UNC Tar Heels on Thursday, Jan. 12th. The Blue Devils did not disappoint the fans in the packed stadium as they walked away victorious over the Tar Heels, 70-58.

“I just think we had more energy,” said Duke junior Lexie Brown. “I think we were playing for each other a little bit more. I think at Florida State; they kind of punched us first and we didn’t really know how to react to that… I think we learned a lot from that game.”

North Carolina sophomore Paris Kea, entered the Blue Devils stadium with a cool confidence as she set the momentum for her team, scoring the first seven points for the Tar Heels.

“I have wanted to play here since I was little,” said Kea. “…I had a whole bunch of energy building up, so it felt great.”

Duke senior Kendall Cooper, reciprocated Kea’s aggressive playing when pulled down an offensive rebound and immediately put it back up to score her first points of the game.

The first five minutes of the game produced five lead changes. Leaona Odom was able to propel Duke into the lead in the first quarter by landing a free throw and layup. However, North Carolina trailed close behind as Hillary Fuller finished a field goal. Fuller was the first Tar Heel to score other than Kea.

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels seemed evenly matched as the first period ticked down, however, Lexie Brown used her quickness and efficiency in passing to keep Duke in the lead. However, on the other end, North Carolina’s Stephanie Watts used her own speed to burst past the Blue Devils defense for back to back layups near the end of the period to regain the lead for her team.

Not to be outdone, Duke’s Oderah Chidom matched Watt’s momentum by also scoring back to back layups at the end of the opening stanza. Duke would get the last lead in the opening period, 18-17, after knocking down their last three field goals before the buzzer went off at the conclusion of the first period.

Rebecca Greenwell, the leading scorer for the Blue Devils, propelled herself into action by scoring her first points of the game during the second quarter. With her added offense, the Blue Devils were able to pull away from their rivals.

Suddenly, the speed of the game changed as Brown led Duke’s scoring surge. North Carolina tried, but fell into a scoring drought as shot after shot rimmed own. As the teams entered intermission, the Blue Devils found themselves with a comfortable 36-21 lead.

“In the second quarter we shut the gaps down,” said Duke Head Coach Joanne McCallie. “They gapped us pretty well in the first quarter; you saw that one-point margin. I thought the second quarter we started to pick it up.”

As the third quarter began, Duke continued to dictate the game, increasing their lead to 42-24 within the first minutes of the quarter. Brown completed a three-pointer sending the crowd to their feet as the momentum of the game remained with the home team.

Kea and Jamie Cherry continued to display aggressive playing, yet North Carolina was unable to make any returns with yet another scoring drought of two and a half minutes in the first three minutes of the quarter – falling behind even more.

Taylor Koenen would get the Tar Heels’ offense again by draining a basket and capping the possession off with a free-throw. Building off this momentum, Watts and Cherry brought North Carolina closer to the Blue Devils, 45-31.

Coming out of a timeout, Kea and Brown continued to go head to head against one another with their aggression. Brown would drain her second triple of the game to spark Duke on another run, as they knocked down their next three field goals. The home team extended their lead to 55-38 near the closing minutes of the third quarter.

Both North Carolina and Duke’s offenses were locked in during the third as both teams went on to score 21-points. Unfortunately for Duke, their last six field goals were missed, which dropped their overall scoring percentage to 43%. At the buzzer for the third stanza, Tar Heels Fuller, sliced and diced through the Blue Devils defense to score a lay-up to cut down their deficit entering the final period, 57-42.

Leaonna Odom came to life in the middle of the last 10 minutes, scoring back to back layups, prompting North Carolina to call a timeout and stop Duke’s momentum. Watts attempted to close the gap when she scored a three-pointer, yet she was no match for Odom who once again scored back to back layups.

As much as they tried, the Tar Heels could not keep up with the Blue Devils as they held onto a substantial 65-48 advantage.

The excitement was felt throughout Cameron Stadium as Duke secured a 70-58 victory. The Blue Devils will face Virginia Tech Thursday, Jan 19 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Tar Heels will go up against Pitt on Thursday, Jan 19 at 2:00 p.m. ET.