by Rick Brewer, Sports Information Director Emeritus
On This Date in Carolina Basketball
February 23, 1980
Carolina 96 Duke 71
North Carolina built a 20-point halftime lead and rolled to a 96-71 victory over Duke at Carmichael Auditorium.
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels outscored the Blue Devils, 16-4, over the last five minutes of the first half to build a 54-34 lead. Duke never got closer than 17 the rest of the way.
The win pushed Carolina's record to 20-6 heading into the ACC Tournament. The 17th-ranked Blue Devils finished regular-season play at 19-7.
The Tar Heels led by just 38-30 with five minutes to go in the opening half. Mike O'Koren had six points in the next 16-4 stretch, while Rich Yonakor and Jimmy Black added four each. O'Koren started this scoring run with a jumper, later had a tip-in on a fast break and then added two free throws after a technical four on Duke Coach Bill Foster.
O'Koren finished with a game-high 18 points with 12 coming in the first 20 minutes. Four other Tar Heels also scored in double figures. John Virgil had 16, Al Wood 14, Yonakor 12 and Black had 10.
Carolina's defense forced Duke into 14 first half turnovers and held the Blue Devils to just 33.3 percent shooting.
The Tar Heels finished with a 43-39 rebounding margin. O'Koren led the way with 12.
"It was a great way for our seniors to go out in their final home game," said Dean Smith afterwards. "O'Koren, Yonakor and Wolf did a great job on the boards. This was one of the best games of Virgil's career.
"It was a tremendous win. Believe me, we never expected anything like this."
Duke was charged with 30 personal fouls and Carolina had 22 in a tightly officiated game. The Tar Heels outscored the Blue Devils 28-17 at the free throw line.
"I thought we might have to send back to Durham for the jayvees," said Foster. "I thought everyone was going to foul out. I thought we would play well. But, everything went bad at once. We couldn't make our shots and we couldn't get any rebounds."
Gene Banks and Kenny Dennard were the only Duke players in double figures with 14 and 10 points. Yonakor and Jeff Wolf combined to hold the Blue Devils' star center, Mike Gminski, to only nine points on four of 13 shooting.