And 23 days ago, with the North Carolina men’s basketball team losing to the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Berry stood at the free-throw line with precious few minutes remaining and a chance to cut into his team’s deficit. He missed again.
But with the time ticking down in Saturday night’s rematch with No. 17 Duke, with the No. 5 Tar Heels holding a fragile lead, Berry didn’t miss. He took three shots in the game’s final four minutes — a driving layup in which he switched to his left hand, a contested 2-pointer and a high runner off the glass.
All three splashed through the net.
“Big-time players have to make big-time plays in big-time games,” head coach Roy Williams said.
By the time Berry stepped to the free-throw line with 34 seconds in the game, the Tar Heels (26-6, 14-4 ACC) led by five and the 90-83 win was all but sealed. He hit the first from the charity stripe to give him seven points in the game’s final four minutes and 28 for the game.
“Joel was unbelievable,” senior forward Isaiah Hicks said. “You see him come out, making those tough shots back to back. Something just lit up in him.”
With junior wing Justin Jackson — the ACC Player of the Year — struggling to find his shot, Berry shouldered his team’s offensive burden in the first half. He scored 19 points in the opening period, including a blistering 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.