They have the possible No. 1 pick in the National Basketball Association draft in freshman forward Jayson Tatum and the leading vote getter for first-team All-ACC in sophomore guard Luke Kennard. It was won because Frank Jackson nailed a 3 to give the Blue Devils the lead.
Not only did Duke outscore the Tar Heels 27-14 during that crucial time period, senior forward Kennedy Meeks-who, along with Isaiah Hicks, tied for the UNC scoring lead with 19 points-made only one second-half basket with Berry on the bench.
Miami won the regular-season meeting against North Carolina by 15 on January 28, a day Tar Heel guard Joel Berry II struggled and the rest of the Carolina roster showed little interest in rebounding. The Tar Heels successfully got the ball down low to their bigs who were able to feast at the rim.
This is due in part to the annual excellence that often leaves the rivals on opposite sides of the conference tournament bracket and thus requiring that any matchup take place in the championship game (Friday’s showdown will be just the second semifinal matchup between the two in the past 32 years, compared to eight in the title game).
Of course, by then, there wasn’t much any one man could do. North Carolina coach Roy Williams tried to hush his faithful, but by then the damage was done. “We realized that we’ve got to come out and play every single day and each game is going to be tough, and I think that helped us get to the position where we were regular-season champs and we’re at where we’re at now”. It was a theme of the game, as Duke attempted 19 more free throws than the Tar Heels, making 33 of 37 attempts. “And I think everybody on the team did that and we just moved on from that and tried to get better from it”.
“Yes, to throw water in their faces and slap them”, Krzyzewski said”. “I said, ‘You might be playing limited minutes”. But a critical moment involving Joel Berry in the second half really turned the tide into Duke’s favor. Giles played the most efficient game of his career Friday, going for six points, seven rebounds and this huge block that led to an alley-oop which basically established Duke’s dominance the rest of the way.
Offensively, Giles matched his highest scoring total since January 23, capped by two clutch free throws in the final two minutes to help put the game away.
UNC against Duke is always entertaining, and we are usually lucky that we get to witness such great basketball squaring off twice a year.
Unlike the win against Louisville, where Allen’s rebirth from a slump fueled the charge, this game was not won by a single player.
In the second half alone, Duke shot a stellar 59.1 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range.
“The biggest thing, we just had to settle down, really focus on defence”. Williams said. “Some of those were silly fouls”.
The Blue Devils, despite playing their third game in three days, were energized by Berry’s departure, shooting 68.8 percent (11-of-16) over the final 15:04.
Now Duke is the team chasing history.
But the truth is it’s hard to say these Blue Devils are “back”, although that will be a popular sentiment-especially if they go on to win the ACC tournament by beating Notre Dame on Saturday night.
The 2017 ACC Tournament continued on Thursday, and we saw action from some of the top seeds.
With the NCAA Tournament now on the horizon, all the Tar Heels can at this point is hope they don’t meet the same fate down the stretch-or else their season may come to an early ending. Four games in four nights is supposed to be a punishment for a regular-season not as well played but sometimes it’s a reward for a team that is still searching to find itself.