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Wednesday February 1st

A look back at two of head coach Hubert Davis' best games as a player against Duke

DTH Archive. Hubert Davis (40) plays defense against Duke during his time as a college player at UNC under coach Dean Smith.
Buy Photos DTH Archive. Hubert Davis (40) plays defense against Duke during his time as a college player at UNC under coach Dean Smith.

Long before Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ever considered engaging in a tactical battle against Hubert Davis, the coach, he was left scratching his head trying slow down Hubert Davis, the sweet-shooting 21-year-old. 

During his four years playing at UNC, Davis saw his role steadily increase each season, eventually blossoming into a second-team All-ACC selection and a first round NBA draft pick.

Davis and the Tar Heels posted a 6-5 record against the Blue Devils and played in some of the rivalry’s most notable matchups. Ahead of his coaching debut against Duke, here’s a look at two of Davis’ most impressive individual performances in the series.

Feb. 5, 1992: No. 9 North Carolina 75, No. 1 Duke 73

Coming into Chapel Hill as the reigning national champions and No. 1 team in the country, the Blue Devils seemed practically invincible. 

And if the team’s 23-game winning streak didn’t speak loud enough, Duke’s starting lineup was historically imposing, featuring the likes of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill — three of the most decorated college players of all time.

The Tar Heels held their own in the first half, trailing by only one point entering the break. But in the opening minutes of the second period, they set the stage for what would be one of the most grueling halves in the history of the rivalry.

A quick 10-0 run put UNC up by nine, but then the offense sputtered and the team was forced to rely on its free throw shooting. Davis was critical in this effort, shooting a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe to keep his team ahead.

Despite not making a single field goal in the final nine and a half minutes, the Tar Heels led by two with 45 seconds remaining thanks to two free throws from sophomore guard Derrick Phelps. On Duke’s last two possessions, Laettner had close opportunities to tie the game, but both rimmed out and UNC came away with the win. 

Although the gory image of blood dripping down the face of UNC sophomore center Eric Montross is what solidifies the lore of this physical battle, what’s often forgotten was that Davis was the team’s leading scorer that night, racking up 16 points in 38 minutes of play.

Following the game, an exhausted Davis harped praise on his opponent, claiming that he still considered Duke to be the best team in the nation. What he likely didn’t know was how those comments would validate what he was going to do a few weeks later, when the two rivals squared off once again.

March 8, 1992: No. 1 Duke 89, No. 16 North Carolina 77

Following the emotional victory — which helped lift the team to No. 4 in the AP poll — the Tar Heels slowly began to fall apart.

Four consecutive losses dropped UNC to 18-7 on the season, and after a narrow win against Georgia Tech, the team headed to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rematch with seemingly more questions than answers.

But if there was one solution that would partially alleviate the Tar Heels from their struggles, it was the scoring prowess of Davis.

In front of a hostile Duke crowd, Davis netted a career-high 35 points on 13-19 shooting, including 6-8 from deep. Despite being held in check for a 10-minute stretch in the second half — and suffering a minor knee injury with five minutes to play — he came alive late and buried two jumpers to trim Duke’s lead to four with 2:51 remaining.

Eventually, the Blue Devils pulled away due in large part to timely plays by Hurley and solidified a 12-point win. Less than a month later, the team cut down the nets in Minneapolis after winning its second straight national title, while UNC fell to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen.


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