The sadness, the loss — watch Brice Johnson fall to the ground. Forearms wrapped around his head like a towel, facedown on the court. He can’t believe what happened, either.
“All you could do is just sit there, like, ‘Wow, just can’t believe it,’” he said.
“It’s just heartbreaking.”
And look, there’s Joel Berry. The game didn’t come down to him, but it did. With the No. 5 North Carolina men’s basketball team (21-5, 10-3 ACC), down 74-73 against No. 20 Duke (20-6, 9-4 ACC), six seconds left in the game, it was he with the ball, he with the chance to play hero.
Berry drove into the paint, Grayson Allen smothering him the whole way. Time’s running down Joel, you have to shoot. His blue and white argyle shoes lift off the hardwood — the ball, and the game, is just hanging there.
Did the ball even touch the rim? Doesn’t matter. It missed. He missed. You lost.
“No one said anything to me,” Berry said of the moment his shot didn’t fall. “Everyone was just pretty much upset.”
That happens when you lose to your crosstown rivals four times in a row. But the shot, you can’t forget it. Or the moment after, when it clinks into the hands of the “wrong” side, when that sick feeling smacks you like a punch to the gut.
“What can you say to him?” Marcus Paige said. “He had a good shot. It just didn’t go in.
“There’s nothing I can tell him that’s going to make the ball go in.”
So don’t say anything; maybe that’s a coach’s job anyhow. To try and console his boys, to try and explain to them a seemingly unexplainable truth.
Watch him — Coach Roy Williams, trudging with his head down across the sideline to shake hands with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. As obligatory as postgame congratulations come. And then off he goes, with the rest of the disappointed masses, away from the court.
He follows his players to the locker room. He’ll have to say something, surely.
“I told them I was sorry,” he said. “That I should’ve gotten us a better shot at the end.”
UNC has now lost four in a row to Duke. That 2014 win marked the last time the Tar Heels felt that court-storming, Franklin Street-rushing, old-sofa-burning euphoria that comes around only but so often.
Now comes more waiting. They’ll get another shot, yes, but not here. Their undefeated record at home? Poof. Gone.
But this game is about more than a score or a shot or a man collapsing into a pile at midcourt. It’s about that feeling of failure, of trying your hardest and just not being good enough. Swallow it, if you can.
No second-half 3-pointers — no scoring at all, really. While Brandon Ingram sank faders over everyone’s outstretched arms, the Tar Heels missed layup after layup, jumper after jumper.
And still, all they had to make was one. One shot goes in, and this story is never written — sent off to article graveyard, telling stories of scores that never happen and wins that never were.
But none of that matters. Instead, this is how it all goes, this ending and shock and everything that comes with it.
All because that shot did not go in.