No. 1 Duke 81, No. 14 North Carolina 61
Posted February 26, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — It couldn't have been a more perfect night for No. 1 Duke.
The Blue Devils beat No. 14 North Carolina 81-61 Saturday to set a school record with their 24th straight victory and made Atlantic Coast Conference history by becoming the first team to go 16-0 in league play.
That the records came against Duke's bitter archrival made it even better, as did that it was in the Smith Center, where the Blue Devils hadn't won since 1991. What made it all perfect was that it was Duke's biggest victory in Chapel Hill since a 104-69 victory on Feb. 29, 1964.
William Avery scored 24 points and Elton Brand had 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils (29-1), who came into the game leading the nation in scoring (93.7) and margin (25.7).
``It hasn't been a goal,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the 16-0 mark that followed last season's 15-1 conference record. ``There is no banner for going 16-0, but it is a heck of an honor. It shows we came ready to play 16 times and beat good teams.''
Seven teams had perfect records in the ACC before the league expanded to nine teams in 1991-92, the last North Carolina in 1987.
``It's a special feat for us,'' Brand said. ``We did it. No one can take it away from us and it's very special.''
Avery said the perfect record was more important than the location.
``It was more satisfying to go 16-0 no matter who we were playing,'' he said.
Duke dominated the boards against the Tar Heels (22-8, 10-6), who lead the ACC in rebound margin at 10.4, finishing with a 52-36 advantage.
``The second half we were much stronger on the boards and rebounding was the key to this basketball game,'' Krzyzewski said.
North Carolina still leads the series against Duke 121-82 and came into this game having won 10 of the last 13, including a 97-73 victory here last season over the top-ranked Blue Devils. Duke swept the series this season, winning 89-77 at home earlier.
Duke played without sophomore forward Shane Battier, their No. 3 rebounder and top defensive player, who sprained his left ankle against DePaul on Wednesday. He's expected to be ready for this week's ACC tournament.
``I told the team not to concentrate on Battier being out or on Carolina or last year,'' Krzyzewski said. ``I told them to concentrate on blocking and executing, things we could be in control of. They did that the whole second half.''
North Carolina finished with a 42-32 rebound advantage in the earlier game and this was Duke's biggest advantage off the boards against the Tar Heels since the ACC tournament final in 1992.
Duke pulled away in the second half with a 22-6 run that featured 3-pointers on three of four possessions. When Avery scored on a drive with 5:25 left to make it 68-47 and end the run, what had been a fired up sellout crowd became very quiet.
``When it was 46-41 we went to some of our sets and made some big shots,'' Krzyzewski said. ``We just had contributions from a whole bunch of people. I'm proud of winning here.''
Corey Maggette had 14 points for Duke and Chris Carrawell added 12.
Brendan Haywood had 16 points to lead the Tar Heels, who shot 31 percent in the second half (9-for-29) in their worst home loss since Temple beat them 83-66 in 1988.
``They're a great team, even better than I thought,'' North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said. ``Overall, we played well in the first half but they have quickness and energy and they're well-coached. I've never seen anyone such an odds-on favorite to win the national championship. They're head and shoulders above everyone else.''
North Carolina managed to be within 35-33 at halftime despite going 5:47 without a field goal during a 13-1 Duke run that made it 29-20 with 5:30 to play.
Cota, who was still playing in the first half despite having three fouls, nearly gave the Tar Heels a lead at the break but stepped out of bounds after taking a length-of-the-court pass and hitting a long 3-point attempt.
``We got stomped on the boards,'' Guthridge said. ``We're not as bad as we looked. They've done that to every team. The way we played we could have beaten a lot of teams tonight, but not Duke.''