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March 4, 2006

Sad senior day

This wasn't according to the script for Duke's 2006 version of senior day.

North Carolina invaded Cameron Indoor Stadium and behind 27 points from Tyler Hansbrough dealt Duke a 83-76 loss on Coach K Court.

The Tar Heels opened up a tight game just past the midway point of the second half. Tied 59-59 at the 9:32 mark, North Carolina put played more than four minutes of stifling defense to spark an 11-0 run to build a 70-59 advantage.

Two J.J. Redick free throws finally ended the Duke drought, but the damage had been done.

Redick was held to just one field goal in the second half and finished the game with 18 points, half of which came in early going when he scored nine of Duke's first 13 points.

Duke made one last push in the closing minutes, keyed by two three pointers from DeMarcus Nelson, but when the Blue Devils had the ball down by three with under a minute to go, the best they could get was a forced runner in the paint by Sean Dockery that was blocked on the way up.

Shelden Williams finished his final game at Cameron with an 18 point effort and also pulled down 18 rebounds and blocked six shots.

On this night though, the show belonged to Hansbrough and the other Tar Heel freshmen. UNC's freshmen outscored Duke's outgoing senior class 55-51, while UNC held Duke to just 27 percent three point shooting for the game.

The final portion of the first half turned into a seesaw affair after North Carolina recovered from the early 13-2 hole.

Duke lost its lead for the first time with 5:52 to go when Quentin Thomas hit a driving layup to push the Tar Heels to a 23-22 lead.

The advantage changed hands five times over the last five minutes before Duke grabbed a 38-37 halftime lead.

That one point lead was due in large part to a really active first half from senior Lee Melchionni, who hit a trio of three pointers in the first 20 minutes, including a triple with 15 seconds to go in the half to give Duke the 38-37 advantage.

Melchionni got a steal and an amazing assist with 2:33 to go. Diving on the floor after the loose ball, Melchionni sent a left handed touch pass to Nelson while sliding on his rear end. Nelson flushed it home to put Duke up by four momentarily.

Duke turned the basketball over 16 times on the night, including five from Greg Paulus, who had a forgettable night, scoring just four points and choosing some questionable shot selection.

The Blue Devils enter the ACC Tournament on a two game skid, but will still be the number one when the league tournament tips off next week.

But after being dominated down the stretch by a Tar Heel team that appears to be peaking, there's a lot more questions than there are answers right now for the Blue Devils.

Devils Illustrated's weekly NCAA Tournament bracket projection will appear on Monday. We wanted to wait until all regular season games were completed on Sunday before putting up another the weekly bracket.


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