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Blue Devils grow up in 2nd half vs. UNC

Duke Notebook

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Duke looked all but lost last Saturday when the Blue Devils went into the locker room after the halftime buzzer sounded down by 10 points to visiting North Carolina.

But after outscoring the Tar Heels 49-29 in the second period and winning 74-64, the team had a different feel to it. The players grew up in that second half in Cameron Indoor Stadium and found yet another way to win. Coming back from down double digits is not new for this team, after all CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander coined the term “Zombie Duke” earlier this year, but recently it has been Duke going up by double digits in the first half and then falling apart late. Those games were clearly learning experiences for this team to be able to lean on when it counted, like it did against UNC.

MARCH MADNESS IS HERE

Duke opens postseason play Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament in The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. and will face off against Notre Dame, a 71-65 winner against Virginia Tech in the second round Wednesday. The Blue Devils are the defending ACC Tournament champions and head into this week’s conference bracket as the betting favorite over regular-season champion and nationally No. 1-ranked Virginia to cut down the nets on Saturday night. Winning the ACC title this weekend will put Duke in play for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the fifth-ranked Blue Devils are likely looking at a No. 2 seed if they win at least one game in Brooklyn.

“JUST GO OUT THERE AND PLAY”

That’s what head coach Mike Krzyzewski told his team at halftime after when Duke trailed UNC by 10 points Saturday night. Duke’s young team was too caught up in being worried about executing plays and sticking to a script, so the winningest coach in college basketball once again found the right buttons to push to get his team over the hump. It was one of many buttons Krzyzewski has pushed during the season to get this team with seven freshmen moving in the right direction.

SENIOR NIGHT

Grayson Allen went out in style in his last home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, helping to engineer a 20-point turnaround over UNC in the second half. It was a loud, raucous environment for one of sports’ highest profile events and a fitting goodbye to one of the more polarizing figures in recent Duke basketball history. Allen will be remembered for a number of moments throughout his four-year career, but none will ever be more laying than his senior speech at center court that was full of appreciation for the Duke fanbase that has stuck with him through all the ups and downs of his time in Durham.

RECRUITS IN CAMERON

Big-time recruits visited Saturday for Duke-UNC game, including Isaiah Stewart was the lone uncommitted recruit in the Bunch. He was joined by 2018 signees Tre Jones and Cameron Reddish in addition to 2019 verbal commitment Joey Baker, a five-star 6-foot-7 small forward from Fayetteville Trinity Christian. Duke is going to need a big class in 2019, as the revolving door of the one-and-done era continues to spin. Stewart, a five-star from Rochester, New York, is one of the big men that Duke’s looking to add, along with five-stars Vernon Carey from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Armando Bacot from Richmond, Virginia.

FIREBIRDS’ KNIGHT TO DUKE

Southern Nash junior halfback Zonovan Knight committed to Duke football over the weekend part of a big haul for head coach David Cutcliffe and his staff, including assistant coach Re’Quan Boyette, a former Duke captain and star at Fike High.

Building on their commitments already in hand, Cutcliffe and staff used the Duke-UNC game perfectly as a recruiting tool to secure commitments from three guys on Saturday night and one on Sunday.

Zonovan Knight, a four-star recruit with more than a dozen offers already, was joined by three-star wide receiver Donavon Greene and three-star cornerback Isaiah Kemp, all in-state priorities, pledged to join #DukeGang19 and moved the class up to a top-15 ranking nationally and a No. 2-ranking in the ACC.

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