CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Austin Rivers and his Duke teammates kept hanging around, doing just enough to keep North Carolina from blowing the game open until the Tar Heels finally gave them an opening.
The freshman took advantage, burying a shot that will live on in the lore of this fierce rivalry.
Rivers hit a 3-pointer at the horn to give No. 10 Blue Devils an 85-84 win over the fifth-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday, snapping UNC's school-record 31-game home winning streak.
Rivers scored a season-high 29 points and hit six 3s, the last over 7-footer Tyler Zeller with the Blue Devils (20-4, 7-2) trailing by two in the final seconds. The ball swished through the net, sending Rivers running down the court in celebration while the rest of his teammates gave chase before mobbing him in front of a stunned UNC crowd.
Rivers' 3 also sent his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, into jubilant celebration from the stands. And it capped a wild rally for the Blue Devils from 10 down in the final 2½ minutes.
"Obviously this is my favorite win I've ever had in my entire life," Rivers said. "And it's because we were down the whole game. The whole game, we were down. They just kept it on us — 10-point lead, 10-point lead. And then there was 3 minutes left and probably everybody thought we were going to lose, and we just kept fighting. To get a W, it's amazing."
Harrison Barnes scored 25 points for the Tar Heels (20-4, 7-2), while Zeller finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. But Zeller had just four points in the second half and missed two free throws in the final minute, including one with 13.9 seconds left that set up Rivers' winner.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"They're really good and they can knock you out," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And we didn't get knocked out. And as a result, we hung in there and we won the last round. I'm not sure we won the whole fight, but the last round, we did, and we won the game. But we fought the entire time. We fought a really good fight."
North Carolina charged out of halftime to build a 13-point lead and seemed in control. But the Tar Heels never could land the finishing blow to a Duke team that had looked a bit lost in recent weeks, including its own crushing loss to Florida State on a last-second 3-pointer that snapped a 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 21.
Duke was coming off an overtime home loss to Miami over the weekend, but the Blue Devils — and Rivers, in particular — played with plenty of confidence all night against the Tar Heels. They shot 44 percent and matched a season high with 14 3-pointers.
And with Florida State's loss at Boston College earlier Wednesday, the Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Seminoles are all tied again atop the ACC standings.
"We believe in our players, we believe in our coaching staff and they believe in us," said Ryan Kelly, who had 15 points for Duke. "Not everything went perfectly, but when it came down to it, we made the biggest play."