DURHAM, N.C. -- The crowd was rowdy and hostile. Duke, determined to end a nagging losing streak, had built a big lead behind a surge of emotion.
Yet North Carolina's youngsters kept coming. And by the end, those Tar Heels had escaped one of college basketball's most intimidating arenas with a confidence-building win Wednesday night.
Freshman Brandan Wright scored 19 points while Tyler Hansbrough added 16 to lead the fifth-ranked Tar Heels past No. 16 Duke 79-73, earning their second straight win in Cameron Indoor Stadium and handing the Blue Devils their first three-game losing streak in nearly eight years.
Rookie Ty Lawson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-3, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed by 10 points early in the second half before finally going ahead to stay in the final minutes.
Last year, Hansbrough led a youth-laden group into Cameron to close the regular season and spoil All-American J.J. Redick's final home game in an 83-76 win. And once again, the Tar Heels rallied from a double-digit deficit and came up with the game's big baskets in the final minutes.
This time, however, the Tar Heels hung around while constantly subbing in an endless stream of fresh bodies while pressuring Duke's ballhandlers the entire way. By the time the game was entering its final minutes, North Carolina looked fresher and found ways to knock down the critical shots against the fast-starting Blue Devils (18-6, 5-5).
North Carolina didn't take its first lead until there were about 5 minutes left, but shot 59 percent after halftime and hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 31 seconds to seal it.
"We started to get tougher as the game went on, as it starting winding down," said Hansbrough, who scored 12 points in the second half. "That's maybe what we need to do at the beginning of the game, too."
It was a strong way to bounce back after an surprising weekend loss to North Carolina State -- an 83-79 setback that had an irked coach Roy Williams calling his team "fat and happy" afterward.
The always-demanding coach won't be saying that now. At least for a while, anyway.
"I was extremely impressed with how competitive our team was, especially when you compare it to what we did last Saturday," Williams said. "We were down 10 a couple of times and I told our guys that if we keep attacking ... that we would be there at the end, and I really felt that way."
Freshman Jon Scheyer had a career-high 26 points for the Blue Devils, who have lost three straight games for the first time since 1999 -- when they lost to Connecticut in the NCAA championship and opened the 1999-2000 season with two straight losses.
The Blue Devils had their chances despite blowing the lead, but went just 3-for-10 at the foul line in the second half as the game slipped away.
"I thought we played a terrific game tonight, but it wasn't enough to beat a terrific team," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They're very, very talented, and the depth that they have means they never take a break. So when they're playing like that, you have to be incredibly resilient."
North Carolina took its first lead at 62-60 when Gerald Henderson was whistled for a goaltending on Reyshawn Terry's fast-break layup with 5:15 left, then pushed the lead to 64-60 when Wright knocked in a tough shot over Josh McRoberts on the next possession.
Duke managed to close the gap to 64-63 shot in the lane from Henderson, then looked poised to go ahead when DeMarcus Nelson got to the foul line after a turnover. But Nelson missed both shots and Hansbrough knocked down a straightaway jumper on the next play to make it 66-63 with 3:15 left.
That started a six-point run from the Tar Heels, who took their largest lead at 70-63 on Lawson's driving basket while drawing the foul for a three-point play with 1:46 left. Scheyer managed a three-point play to make it 70-66 with 1:17 left, but Lawson followed with a driving basket against three defenders that allowed the Tar Heels to seal it at the line.
It was another late-game fade for the Blue Devils, who failed to score on the final play of a 68-66 overtime loss at Virginia and a 68-67 home loss to Florida State. Krzyzewski responded by shaking up his starting lineup against the Tar Heels, pulling tri-captains McRoberts and Nelson -- who had started every game this season -- in favor of freshmen Henderson and Brian Zoubek.
Scheyer got the Blue Devils off and running, scoring 14 first-half points -- including a stickback of a Henderson miss that gave Duke its largest lead at 35-25 at the 4-minute mark.
"Those guys were wounded," Wright said. "We knew those guys were going to come out firing and they did."
But the Tar Heels eventually erased the deficit, getting a 3-pointer from Wes Miller followed by a short jumper from Hansbrough to tie it at 52 with 9:40 left.
Now the Blue Devils are left with their first in-season three-game losing skid since the 1995-96 season. Things won't get much easier; their next games are at Maryland and Boston College.
"We don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," Scheyer said.