CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina stunned Duke with a second-half rally from 19 points down, but in overtime the No. 3 Blue Devils found a crack in the lane and pried it open for a 90-86 ACC basketball victory Thursday night at the Smith Center.
The Blue Devils (17-2, 8-0), halfway toward a second consecutive perfect ACC season, capitalized in overtime on the absence of UNC 7-footer Brendan Haywood, who fouled out in the final three minutes of regulation.
Duke freshman Carlos Boozer of Juneau, who had three of his shots blocked by Haywood in regulation, scored seven of his 15 points in overtime, including baskets on three of four early possessions as Duke built an 87-80 lead in the final minute. Boozer grabbed seven rebounds and dished out two assists, but on defense he held Haywood to just nine points.
North Carolina (13-9, 4-4) rallied behind freshman Joseph Forte, who was the hero at the end of regulation with a three-pointer that tied the score at 73.
Now down seven in overtime, Forte hit a three-pointer with 44 seconds left to make it 87-83, and after one Boozer free throw, Forte rebounded Orlando Melendez's intentionally missed second free throw and scored to make the Duke lead 88-86 with 11 seconds left.
However, Duke freshman Michael Dunleavy sank two free throws with 8.7 seconds left to seal the victory. Forte's final three-pointer, trying to cut the deficit to 90-89, missed left with one second left.
``Whatever the hype was before the game,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, ``it didn't measure up to the performance out there tonight.'' North Carolina had won its past five overtime games under coach Bill Guthridge, though none had come this season. Duke is 4-1 in overtime this season, including ACC victories against N.C. State and Virginia.
``I think they're the best team in the country,'' Guthridge said of the Blue Devils.
Duke looked the part in opening a 19-point lead with 14 minutes left, 50-31 on a nifty reverse from Dunleavy under and around Haywood.
But UNC point guard Ed Cota brought the Tar Heels back, scoring 18 of his 21 points after halftime. Shane Battier led Duke with 25.
Duke probably could have hung on in regulation, but freshman point guard Jason Williams (12 points, six assists, five turnovers) missed the second of two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to leave Duke's lead at 73-70.
At the other end Forte capitalized, elevating over two Blue Devils for a three-pointer from the wing with five seconds left. Overtime followed when Duke's Chris Carrawell (23 points) missed a harried 15-footer at the buzzer.
Duke never trailed in the first half, giving up the lead for only a few moments, when North Carolina tied it at 7. After that, the Blue Devils went on a 21-8 run to take a 28-15 lead. Duke finished the half with a 41-24 lead on two Carrawell free throws with 17.6 seconds left.
The Tar Heels were inept in the first half against Duke's man-toman pressure, which forced 14 turnovers, including six by Cota and four by Forte. North Carolina entered the game averaging 15 turnovers, with a high of 21.
The Tar Heels had a brief uprising late in the first half, scoring five straight points to cut Duke's lead to 30-22 with 3 minutes 56 seconds left. However, Duke finished the half with an 11-2 run, and the Tar Heels left their home floor to the sounds of boos.
Along with the three fouls, Haywood was a nonfactor on offense, attempting just one shot - and making it - in 14 first-half minutes. He was more of a presence on defense, blocking three shots by Boozer, who had another shot blocked by Kris Lang in the half.
The normally mild-mannered Guthridge picked up a technical foul early in the game while complaining about a scoring drive by Dunleavy that sent Haywood to the floor. Guthridge, who wanted a charge called on Dunleavy, was red-faced and screaming as he picked up the technical foul - which led to four points by Battier, on two free throws and a 14-footer.