UNC Basketball: Tar Heels lose heartbreaker in ACC semifinal

Zion Williamson left his mark on the Duke-UNC rivalry

Williamson injured his knee February 20 when his sneaker tore on the opening possession of Duke's first game against the Tar Heels, and the freshman's absence overshadowed a signature win for UNC. "Regardless of the situation, regardless of who's here and who's not, we're always going to keep pushing and keep fighting until the buzzer goes off". "It's very evident what we need to fix, and we'll be ready come next week".

On the year, Duke has an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 113.8 and a defensive efficiency of 91.5.

"He put on his Superman jersey", UNC coach Roy Williams said. "More physical, all of it".

Phil Cofer had 11 points and 7-foot-3 center Christ Koumadje added nine points and nine rebounds for the Seminoles, who will play the victor of No. 3 North Carolina/No. 5 Duke on Saturday night.

Which leads to two ideas now: The first is whether Carolina gets a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.

BOTTOM LINE: A spot in the ACC championship game is up for grabs as Duke and North Carolina are set to face off.

The Tar Heels shot just 40 percent, including 4 of 27 from 3-point range, against Duke's aggressive defense that played tough after UNC landed an early flurry for the lead.

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"I don't know. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in", Jerome said. "So when I saw it miss, my instinct was to get the rebound and go back up, but I realized I could just tip it in". His work on both ends of the court made Duke a different team. Florida State is 5-2 ATS in their last seven after an ATS win and the under is 4-0 in their last four Saturday games.

Even when the Cavaliers did gain possession, Florida State forced almost desperation heaves with the shot clock winding down, with Jerome and Huff both missing badly on three-point attempts. "(Barrett) and Zion weren't as exhausted", said Krzyzewski, noting Duke's greatest flaw without Williamson for those six games, "because they were ... instead of giving energy to a teammate, they were getting energy from a teammate". Duke, while obviously much better with Williamson, was clearly one of the country's best teams without him, too. In the first two games combined, Duke (28-5) mustered just 58 points in the paint.

"We're fighters", Reddish said. "We've got six more games, hopefully".

Florida State comes into this one with a 27-6 mark overall. They defended well. They were sound, and tonight they were the tougher team, or more physical. This also marks UNC's first loss since February 11, when the Tar Heels lost at home to Virginia. Nichols repeatedly backed down Clark on the low block to sink short jumpers. Duke enters the locker room shooting 48.6 percent compared to 47.1 percent from the Tar Heels.

Carolina had its chance to win and, thus, take three games from Duke for the first time since the 1975-76 season.

"It was obvious that our kids were really locked in for this game, and a lot of it is because we have such a tremendous amount of respect for the job that Tony does and the legacy he's built at Virginia", Seminoles Coach Leonard Hamilton said of the ACC coach of the year.

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