Grayson Allen also needed to stay hot. A national stage, a big moment for his team and the validity of its talent - and he came through.
"We're never counted out", ALlen said. Duke got better as the game neared its end, and Carolina got worse.
On the Blue Devils, Luke Kennard scored 20 points, and Jayson Tatum had an explosion in the second half, delivering all of his 19 points in that period.
Allen's seventh 3 came on the possession before he fouled out with 1:02 to play. On Thursday, Jackson, Bradley, Pinson, Berry and Nate Britt all missed free throws in the second half, as the team as a whole shot 8-of-15 from the line in the final 20 minutes. Frank Jackson ended up with 11 points.
Webster had 19 points and Glynn Watson Jr. added 15 for the Huskers (10-14, 4-8), who have lost eight of their last nine.
Nigel Hayes hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 18.4 seconds left in overtime and Ethan Happ blocked Tai Webster's shot on Nebraska's last try, giving No. 7 Wisconsin a 70-69 victory on Thursday night. "Throughout the season defense can be consistent if you only put the effort in, make the right switches and play smart". But Allen also provided the leadership expected of him in a high-intensity game.
Justin Jackson pumped in 21 points and Joel Berry had 15 points for North Carolina (21-5, 9-3).
This could've been a huge night for the Tar Heels. Blossomgame is shooting 52.2 percent from the field. A monster dunk to put Duke up 6 with under three and a half minutes remaining got the Cameron Crazies as loud as they'd been all night. "They're a tough matchup". UNC shot 10-18 from the strike compared to 13-16 from Duke. The difference in the end was that the younger team executed like a veteran one and the experienced unit, the No. 8 Tar Heels, faltered. Loyola Marymount (11-13, 4-9) was led by Steven Haney's 12 points, all coming on his 4 three-pointers. And when Allen makes at least three 3-pointers, Duke is 9-0 this season.
While it's easy to dismiss Thursday's loss because of the venue, the emotion of the rivalry and the extenuating circumstance of Isaiah Hicks' injury - which forced UNC to play without one of its best inside scoring and rebounding threats - the flaws that were exposed can't simply be dismissed by saying "they just made more plays than we did". Syracuse trailed, 24-11, after the opening 10 minutes of the game. The junior guard has had a down season by his lofty standards, which is at least partially due to the numerous tripping incidents he's created, but the last four games Allen has returned to an elite level of play. During his time at Kansas, and throughout the first half of his ongoing 14-year tenure in Chapel Hill, the reputation was "he can recruit, but he can't coach".
Jalen Henry scored 22 points with nine rebounds and Burak Eslik had 18 points for the Cougars (5-21, 0-12), who made only four of 20 from the arc. There are three teams with three losses atop the ACC standings and three more only one game back. This marked the third meeting in a row that North Carolina was ranked higher than Duke.
So now Duke's standard goals - first place in the ACC regular season, ACC Tournament title, Final Four and NCAA championship - are all within reach once again.
Duke lost three of four games last month to fall below.500 in the ACC standings and almost drop totally out of the Associated Press Top 25. North Carolina is off until Wednesday, when it visits its other neighboring rival by playing at North Carolina State.