Feb. 8, 2010

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - Bridgette Mitchell and Keturah Jackson scored 12 points apiece, and No. 8 Duke routed No. 18 North Carolina 79-51 on Monday night to bounce back from its first Atlantic Coast Conference loss.

Krystal Thomas had 11 points for the first-place Blue Devils (19-4, 7-1). They never trailed and dominated nearly every stat category - their 52-28 rebounding advantage included a 35-12 edge in the second half - in avoiding its first ACC losing streak in a decade.

She'la White and Laura Broomfield had 10 points each to lead the slumping Tar Heels (16-6, 4-4). They had no shortage of reasons why they lost their third straight ACC game for the first time since 2001-02.

They had 25 turnovers, shot 24 percent in the second half and managed just two field goals over the late 10-minute stretch in which it got out of hand.

Still, just when North Carolina pulled to 11 midway through the second half and looked like it might make things competitive down the stretch, Duke responded with an overwhelming run that turned it into a laugher.

Jackson hit a 3 with less than 12 minutes left and Krystal Thomas had baskets on consecutive trips downcourt to start the late 27-8 run that pushed the Blue Devils' lead to 30. Bridgette Mitchell's free throw with 5:39 remaining made it 67-47, and Kathleen Scheer's layup with 27 seconds left made it 79-49.

Allison Vernerey and Shay Selby had 10 points apiece for the Blue Devils, who proved they could win convincingly even without big scoring contributions from their two top offensive playmakers.

Jasmine Thomas, who barely played in the first half because of foul trouble, finished with 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting, while Joy Cheek had just five points--half of her average. North Carolina's top scorer, Italee Lucas, had as many points (six) as turnovers and finished 10 points shy of her average.

Both teams limped back to the state's Triangle region late last week after long road trips ended in upset losses, and the schools entering their rivalry after defeats for the first time since 1997. While Duke was losing at Boston College, the Tar Heels were being knocked off by Miami--a loss that helped sink them to their lowest ranking since they were 19th late in 2001-02.

Upsets generally have been the exception in this series: the higher-ranked team has won 38 of 52 matchups when both teams were in the Top 25. But in both meetings last year, the lower-ranked teams won on their home courts.

That wasn't about to happen this time - and it was clear from the opening tip.

Coming off that lethargic loss in Boston, Duke scored the first 10 points of this one during a game-opening 16-4 run. The lead grew to 25-11 after it forced the Tar Heels to miss 14 of their first 19 shots.

Perhaps more impressively, the Blue Devils mostly did it without their two top players. Foul trouble limited Jasmine Thomas to six minutes and Cheek to seven, but with them on the bench, Duke's lead grew to 15 on Selby's 3 from the corner with 5 1/2 minutes before the break and North Carolina didn't get closer than seven during the rest of the half.