In the final home game of Mike Krzyzewski’s head coaching career, the North Carolina men’s basketball team stunned No. 4 Duke with a 94-81 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
After the Blue Devils knocked the opening tip out of bounds, sophomore guard Caleb Love drove left on the baseline and flipped the ball to a cutting junior big man Armando Bacot for the opening slam. Duke guard Trevor Keels quickly got his team on the board, but UNC made four of its first six shots to take an 11-4 lead into the first media timeout.
Duke came out energized after the stoppage, especially forward Paolo Banchero, who scored three buckets in the paint. While Love struggled with his shot early — going 0-4 to start the game — fellow sophomore guard RJ Davis took over offensively, isolating and finishing at the rim to keep UNC’s lead at 15-14 with 11:22 to play in the half.
Over the next several possessions, Banchero displayed the offensive arsenal that makes him a polarizing top-5 prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft. He knocked down a three to trim Duke’s deficit to two, and later took sophomore forward Justin McKoy off the dribble for a spinning layup. By the end of the explosion, Duke wrapped up its 14-0 run to give the team a 37-28 lead.
After trailing by as many as nine, the Tar Heels fought back in the final minutes of the half. On the final possession, Davis knocked down a three to trim Duke’s lead to 41-39 heading into the break.
Both teams came out of halftime playing physically, and after UNC tied the game twice, a flurry of baskets from Duke helped the Blue Devils regain the lead.
For the next four minutes, the Tar Heels forced the ball inside to Bacot. He exerted his will with nine quick points to keep UNC within reach, and after Duke failed to pull away, the Tar Heels only trailed 56-54 with 11:40 to play.
Later on, the Blue Devils made a three to go up by five, but Love quieted the crowd with a three of his own and Davis finished a fast-break layup to tie the score at 61. On the next two possessions, Bacot and Manek each made shots in the paint to give the Tar Heels a four-point lead. Both teams traded blows for the next several minutes, and UNC led 70-67 with 6:04 remaining.
After two Duke free throws, Davis hit a huge three to put the Tar Heels up four. Roach responded with a jumper, but two UNC baskets put the team up eight for its largest lead of the game. With under three minutes to play, Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr. nailed a triple to narrow UNC’s lead to 79-74.
On the first possession after the timeout, Manek made his fifth three of the night to put the Tar Heels back up eight with 2:33 to go. Duke made two more free throws, but a tip-in from Black gave the Tar Heels and eight-point lead once again. After another defensive stop, Love found Bacot underneath the rim for a dunk that gave UNC its first double-digit lead.
The rest of the game was rather academic as UNC made its free throws to pull off the stunning 94-81 win.
Who stood out?
When offense was hard to come by in the first half, the Tar Heels were led by Davis, who scored 11 points in the first 20 minutes. He made big buckets down the stretch and finished with 21 points and four assists.
Despite battling foul trouble early, Bacot was also dominant. After being held to 12 points in the first matchup, he scored 23 points on 10-11 shooting on Saturday.
Banchero took over for the Blue Devils early, scoring 15 points in the second half. He ended up with 23 points on the night.
When was it decided?
After a late UNC run in the first half made it a two-point game, the second half was highly anticipated.
Both teams competed on both ends of the floor for the entirety of the second half. Numerous lead changes took place, and the final outcome was in question until Bacot threw down the dagger dunk.
Why does it matter?
For a team that had yet to solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament, a win over No. 4 Duke likely clinched UNC’s spot in the Big Dance.
The game also spoiled the final home game of Krzyzewski’s career, who will retire as the winningest coach in Division 1 history.
When do they play next?
With the conclusion of the regular season, UNC will play its opening round game of the ACC Tournament on Thursday in Brooklyn. Although their opening round opponent is still undetermined, as the No. 3 seed, the game will tip off at 9:30 p.m.
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