There's been outstanding women's basketball played in the Triangle this season, sparking debates on who is the best team.
After Thursday night, No. 17 UNC solidified its title as the top dog.
The Tar Heels took down No. 13 Duke in a low-scoring rivalry battle, 61-56, snapping the Blue Devils' 11-game win streak. For UNC, this was the fifth ranked win of the season, fourth win in a row and second straight home win against ranked Triangle rivals in front of over 5,000 fans.
UNC and Duke traded quarters as the Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead in the first. Then, the Blue Devils tied it at 21 going into halftime. With the help of a 10-point third-quarter from Alyssa Ustby, UNC regained momentum and began to pull away with a nine-point lead going into the final 10 minutes.
"It's go time," head coach Courtney Banghart said before the last period.
Duke outscored the Tar Heels 25-21 in the fourth quarter, but clutch shooting from both the field and the free-throw line ultimately led UNC to victory.
The Blue Devils began to heat up in the final stretch, led by guard Shayeann Day-Wilson who scored 14 points in the fourth. Day-Wilson did everything for her team from hitting threes, to grabbing rebounds and to drawing fouls, which gradually chipped down the Tar Heels' lead.
UNC did a great job of responding to Duke's baskets, never trailing the entire period.
Led by Deja Kelly and Kennedy Todd-Williams' 14 combined fourth-quarter points, the Tar Heels made the necessary shots to keep Duke's momentum in check.
With just under five minutes to go, Day-Wilson made a three to cut the Tar Heels' lead to just five. Considering UNC had an 11-point advantage just two minutes prior, it seemed as if Duke had a real chance for a comeback at this point with the way it kept scoring and creating extra possessions on the boards.
The intensity of the game rose, and the two teams struggled for the next two minutes with turnovers, missed shot and fouls.
Kelly broke the scoring drought with a jumper to put the lead back to seven. On the ensuing possession, Todd-Williams picked up her third foul and second of the quarter, allowing Day-Wilson to put in two more at the free-throw line.
No worries, though. Todd-Williams got it back with a huge corner three, putting UNC back up by eight.
The two teams went back and forth ahead of the final minute, leading to Todd-Williams fouling out and Duke cutting the lead back down to five with just 58 seconds to go.
Once again, Kelly hit a clutch jumper to neutralize the Blue Devils after driving and finding her spot near the basket. UNC found success from driving down the lane all night, taking advantage of Duke's aggressive on-ball defense and finding cutters for 30 points in the paint.
Duke didn't go down without a fight, though, hitting two shots, including another Day-Wilson three, to make it a three-point game with just 23 seconds to go.
This time, a quiet hero came up crucial for the Tar Heels. On the inbound, Duke fouled immediately and sent Eva Hodgson to the line. She had been off her game all night, coming into this moment 0-1 from the field with zero points and three turnovers.
Yet, as the Tar Heels' best free-throw shooter, this was the perfect time for Hodgson to put an impact on the game. She sank two free-throws to build the lead back to five, and when she needed to seal the game 20 seconds later, Hodgson hit two more to put it out of reach.
For UNC, this game served as an example of how experienced and mature the team is while under pressure. Duke gave the Tar Heels all it had in the final moments, but the late-game awareness from Kelly to slow down the offense and find the best shot combined with the team's ability to make clutch free-throws shows how hard it is to beat them with the game on the line.
The Tar Heels also saw how good they could be when they just make shots. UNC hasn't shot over 40 percent in a game since losing to Virginia Tech on New Year's Day, but on Thursday night, it shot 48.9 percent from the floor — its highest percentage since beating USC-Upstate in December.
With the win, UNC moves to 13-5 overall and 4-3 in the ACC. It will get a chance to extend its four-game win streak in a home game against Georgia Tech on Sunday at 4 p.m.