Duke Freshman, Jalen Johnson, shown driving down the lane. He ended the night with 14 points, but unfortunately, he did not score enough for the Blue Devils to clinch a rival victory. (Photo Courtesy of Public Domain)
With no fans inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and neither team ranked, the longtime fierce rivalry between nearby neighbors –The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University– had a very different feel this year.
The team’s first head-to-head clash of the season became historic in a way neither would prefer. Two weeks ago, when Duke fell out of the poll, it became the first time Duke (7-7, 5-5 ACC) and UNC (12-6, 7-4 ACC) had been unranked at the same time since February 1960.
The season’s first rendition of the Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry lived up to the standards of the series. The Tar Heels led by as many as 12 in the second half only to see Duke rally to tie in the final minutes.
In the end, the Tar Heels rode their best offensive performance of the season to pass Duke ending with a 91-87 victory that the Tar Heels desperately needed.
The Tar Heels shot 53% and hit 10 of 15 3-pointers. They also had 28 points off turnovers, six players in double figures, and a 13-for-22 rate at the foul line.
Caleb Love, UNC freshman guard, hit his career-high in points while also handing out seven assists, scoring a game-high of 25 points. Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Kerwin Walton each scored 12 for the Tar Heels. Armando Bacot chipped in 16 points and Day’Ron Sharpe 11.
For Duke, Jeremy Roach, freshman, scored 16 points, shot 54%, and made 11 of 25 3-pointers. Jalen Johnson scored 14 points with five assists, while DJ Steward and Joey Baker added 11 points each.
Matthew Hurt, Duke, who entered the game as the ACC’s No. 2 scorer at 18.9 points per game, finished with just seven points before fouling out. Hurt’s seven points were a career-low and marked the first time this season he failed to reach double figures. When he fouled out with more than four minutes left, the Blue Devils were left without their top offensive option in the game’s most important moments.
Duke went with a bigger starting lineup, with freshman center Mark Williams joined by Matthew Hurt on the interior, with freshman guards DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach and sophomore Wendell Moore on the perimeter. This lineup was the ninth different starting five that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has used in 14 games this season.
UNC’s starting five had Leaky Black, Caleb Love, and Kerwin Walton on the perimeter with Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks manning the post. This was the seventh consecutive game UNC coach Roy Williams has used this starting lineup.
UNC led 62-50 with 13:44 to play before Duke fought back to tie the game twice. The struggles Duke showed while losing 77-75 on Monday night last week were not corrected as the Blue Devils prepared to face UNC. Duke hit just 8 of their first 20 shots while committing six turnovers, as UNC grabbed a 28-21 lead with 7:48 to play until halftime.
Jalen Johnson’s dunk tied it one last time with 3:54 left, knotting the score at 79. Love’s basket, followed by a pair of Armando Bacot free throws with 3:14 left, gave UNC an 83-79 lead. Duke failed to score on its next two possessions, thanks to a missed 3-pointer and turnover both at the hands of Joey Baker with just 2:11 left.
Love’s 3-pointer with 1:54 left extended UNC’s lead to 86-79. However, the Tar Heels could not put Duke away. Wendell Moore scored for the Blue Devils and–after a Love turnover–Roach’s basket with 1:21 left, bumped the UNC lead to 86-83.
Love hit two free throws with 58 seconds left to give UNC some breathing room. But Moore rebounded Jeremy Roach’s missed 3-pointer to score with 46 seconds left. Brooks’ layup was blocked by Johnson with 21 seconds left and DJ Steward hit a layup with 17 seconds left, cutting the Tar Heels lead to 88-87.
Black answered by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 14.6 seconds left. Wendell Moore had a chance to tie, but he drove to the paint and wasn’t able to get off a shot before being whistled for a travel to set up Black’s clinching free throws. From there, North Carolina iced the game at the free-throw line.