With Williamson scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds after missing all but 30 seconds of the first two meetings with North Carolina due to injury, Duke almost certainly clinched a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
From there, however, Williamson took over on both ends, scoring five of the game’s final seven points and altering two North Carolina shots near the rim in the closing minutes.
Duke survived despite an inefficient game from its other freshmen stars, as R.J. Barrett made just 5-of-15 shots (2-of-9 from 3-point range) and missed two free throws in the closing seconds that gave North Carolina an opportunity to win.
Opinion: Virginia shows little evidence this March will be different from past failures Bubble Watch: Conference tourney winners and losers before Selection Sunday In a game that illustrated how different Duke is when Williamson is on the court, the Blue Devils trailed by as many as 13 points early until Williamson scored seven straight, sparking a run that eventually tied the game at 44 going into halftime.
North Carolina (27-6) will go into the NCAA tournament disappointed that an ACC title slipped from its grasp but taking some solace in how close it came while making just 4-of-27 from the 3-point line — especially if it ends up meeting Duke again in Minneapolis.