Smiling and waving at the Cameron Crazies, repeatedly mouthing the words “Bye-bye,” Caleb Love took his time walking off Coach K Court.
His stats during his Cameron Indoor Stadium encore weren’t anything spectacular. Love had just 11 points and six turnovers in No. 12 Arizona’s 78-73 win over No. 2 Duke. But in typical Love fashion, the former UNC guard showed up when it mattered most.
In the final 47 seconds of Friday night’s heavyweight bout, Love notched a steal and two assists and sank all four of his free throws. With legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski — whom Love retired with his decisive dagger in the 2022 Final Four — back at home for just the second time since the fact, the stage was set perfectly for Love’s return to Durham.
“Obviously, it was on my mind for a good minute,” Love said of the Duke matchup. “As soon as I'd seen that [Duke] was on the schedule, my eyes got bigger.”
Having won in Cameron twice before, including spoiling Krzyzewski’s final home game, Love knew what to expect out of the hostile environment. He tuned out the noise, never interacting with the 9,314 fans until after the win. He said he didn't even notice Krzyzewski sitting on the baseline.
And with 18 seconds remaining and a chance to extend the Wildcats’ lead to three, Love found himself alone at the charity stripe. Per usual, two dribbles and a pause preceded each free throw. Love knocked down both foul shots, then another pair with five seconds left.
“I can imagine it’s a pretty emotional moment and he’s a competitive guy,” Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd said. “But for him to calmly step up and go 4-for-4 from the line down the stretch says a lot about him as a competitor.”
Duke swept North Carolina last season, and the two rivals won’t meet for another three months. But for the time being, it’s safe to say that UNC fans enjoyed watching Love continue his success against Duke.
And if the "Tar Heel 4L" inscription on Love's right shoe is any indication, the feeling is mutual.