DURHAM, N.C. -- If Duke freshman Jabari Parker and sophomore Rodney Hood never play another game in Cameron Indoor Stadium for the Blue Devils, they gave a performance worthy of a senior night send-off against North Carolina.
Parker scored a career-high 30 points and Hood added 24 -- which marked the first game in ACC play that both players surpassed 20 points -- as Duke beat the rival Tar Heels 93-81. Parker's 30 points were the second-most by a freshman in a Duke-North Carolina game, falling one short of Walter Davis' 31 for North Carolina in 1974.
Neither player has revealed their intentions regarding whether or not they’ll turn pro at the end of the season, but both showed why they’d be coveted by NBA teams as soon as they are ready to declare.
Parker and Hood were so dominant even teammate Rasheed Sulaimon confessed to being transfixed by the way they played.
“It’s crazy kind of watching that,” Sulaimon said. “You’re in the game, but at some point you’re kind of spectating as well when two great players like that just take over the game.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who donned a Duke pullover, and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo were among the celebrities in the crowd, but it was quite clear who the stars were.
It’s long past the time when Hood can walk around town in anonymity. But after his performance in avenging the loss to the Heels, he can add a Cheshire grin.
“I got tired of walking through Durham with people screaming 'Carolina' at me when I walk through Walmart and stuff like that,” Hood said. “It was a big-time win, I’m just happy to keep the streak going.”
Duke moved its nation-best home win streak to 33 consecutive games by focusing on its best two players.
In the Blue Devils’ loss to Wake Forest, they got away from going to Parker and Hood in the game’s deciding minutes. Saturday, Duke determined its offense had to go through Parker and Hood to be effective.
“The Wake Forest game gave us a sense of urgency after losing,” Parker said. “We can’t do the same things that we’ve been doing so we had to change, and I think today we have. That’s all that matters is consistency from this point.”
Hood’s three-point play early in the second half sparked an 11-3 spurt that gave Duke all the separation it would need, as the Heels never got closer than eight points after that.
Parker drilled his only 3-pointer in the second half and kissed the fingers on his shooting hand as he ran back down the floor. The 19-point lead effectively helped the Blue Devils kiss North Carolina’s 12-game win streak goodbye.
“I just got lost in the game, they want to share my energy and emotion -- Coach is really big on that -- but not celebrating too much,” Parker said. “I kind of lost myself in the moment. That’s not exceptional: I just got to get my butt back on defense.”
But Parker was exceptional. Carolina tried just about everything it could to slow him down. James Michael McAdoo, who was the primary defender against Parker in their earlier meeting, was in foul trouble throughout.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Five different Tar Heels found themselves trying to defend Parker at some point, from 6-foot-9 forward Brice Johnson, whose reach was supposed to give Parker trouble, to 6-foot-5 forward J.P. Tokoto, whose quickness was supposed to keep Parker from getting in the lane.
Parker got the shots he wanted. During a sequence in the first half, Parker drove baseline past Leslie McDonald, rose over Johnson and made a floater just as Kennedy Meeks was swatting to try and block his shot.
“He was feeling it, he was in attack mode,” Hood said. “We expect more, to be honest. Like Coach said 30 is probably not enough.”
Hood was referring to points, but he easily could have referred to shots. Parker and Hood combined for 30 attempts, with no other Duke player taking more than eight shots. If nothing else, Saturday’s win proved that is the formula for the Blue Devils’ offense.
Parker and Hood need to be the ones leading the way.
“They are a duo that not many people, or nobody else, has,” Duke senior guard Tyler Thornton said.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams would agree. He used zone in the Heels’ win to slow the Blue Devils’ offense down. But Duke, which entered the game shooting 27 percent from 3-point range in its past four games, busted the zone from deep.
Parker and Hood combined for five of the team’s eight 3-pointers, including three of Duke's six in the second half. Whether inside or out, the pair was a problem for the Heels.
“Between Jabari and Rodney we really had trouble trying to figure out a way to try and stop them,” Williams said. “And we still didn’t figure it out.”
Duke even eliminated the one big advantage the Heels were supposed to have. Carolina got outrebounded 34-20, which marked its lowest rebound total since the 1987 ACC tournament championship against N.C. State.
Parker, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, contributed to the Heels' misery in that area, too. With Carolina trailing by 11 with two minutes left, Duke finally missed a free throw (it shot 23-of-27 in the second half), but Parker got the rebound, was fouled and made a pair of free throws. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Parker scored 10 second-chance points.
Carolina shot 59.6 percent from the field. It was the first time during Williams' tenure that his team lost when shooting better than 50 percent. During those prior 141 games, the Tar Heels never faced a duo that was as on their game as Parker and Hood were Saturday.
“We’re a completely different team offensively I think; it’s so difficult to guard both of us at the same time,” Hood said. “Then you have guys like Andre [Dawkins], 'Sheed [Sulaimon], Quinn [Cook] that can chip in like that, we can score in the 80s, 90s every game.”