- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - With the final seconds ticking away and his team down by one point, North Carolina coach Roy Williams repeatedly motioned his left hand toward the basket.

The message was clear: Play on, don’t call a timeout.

And that decision ultimately led to an apology by Williams after a fourth straight loss to their most hated rival.

The fifth-ranked Tar Heels lost to No. 5 Duke 74-73 on Wednesday night after a disorganized final sequence was capped by Joel Berry II’s last shot being blocked.

“I told them I was sorry, that I should have gotten us a better shot at the end,” Williams said, intimating he should have used one of his three remaining timeouts.

The loss spoiled a huge game for Brice Johnson, who had 29 points and 19 rebounds - but attempted only two shots in the final 13 minutes, making a layup with 12:55 to play and a dunk with 4:45 left. He also was held off the offensive glass in the final 14 1/2 minutes.

“We were going possession for possession, just going back and forth,” Johnson said, “and then all of a sudden (Duke) decided to clamp down and didn’t want us to score.”

North Carolina (21-5, 10-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) came up empty twice in the final minute, first on a shot attempt inside in traffic by Kennedy Meeks.

Then came the Tar Heels’ ill-fated final possession.

Berry brought the ball up court and looked to Williams with about 15 seconds left, with the Hall of Fame coach gesturing toward the basket.

Berry passed to Johnson at the key, and he found Justin Jackson on the left wing. He drove into the lane but pulled up near the free-throw line and kicked back out to Berry, who spun near the foul line before pulling up in the lane with about 5 seconds left.

Derryck Thornton got a finger on the shot and two Tar Heels got hands on the rebound that made its way to Grayson Allen, who flung it in the air while the final seconds ticked off.

Jackson added 13 points for the Tar Heels, who sputtered down the stretch after leading by eight with about 7 minutes left.

North Carolina guard Marcus Paige - the preseason ACC co-player of the year - finished with seven points. He missed eight of his 10 shots, misfired on all six of his 3-pointers and finished with three turnovers.

The Tar Heels took their biggest lead at 68-60 on Jackson’s putback with 6:49 left, but Duke’s Brandon Ingram - a native North Carolinian who was heavily recruited by UNC - reeled off three straight baskets to tighten things back up.

Ingram finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Allen had 23 points. Freshman Luke Kennard had 15 points with three 3-pointers for Duke (20-6, 9-4).

STAT SHEET

North Carolina entered as the ACC’s worst 3-point shooting team, making just 31.6 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels made just one 3-pointer to match a season low (Wofford) and finished 1 of 13.

TIP-INS

Duke: Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Jones sprained his left ankle “pretty badly.” … The Blue Devils held UNC to 34 percent shooting and 27 points after halftime. … The Blue Devils last took four straight meetings with the Tar Heels from March 2003 to February 2005, the first against ex-UNC coach Matt Doherty and then the first three meetings with Williams.

North Carolina: UNC finished with a 46-34 rebounding advantage, including 18 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second-chance points. … UNC honored former longtime radio “Voice of the Tar Heels” Woody Durham at halftime. … Former Tar Heels defensive lineman Sylvester Williams attended the game fresh off a Super Bowl win with the Denver Broncos.

UP NEXT

Duke travels to No. 18 Louisville on Saturday.

North Carolina hosts No. 11 Miami on Saturday.

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Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

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AP college basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

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