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Caleb Love gets the last laugh in return to Cameron Indoor Stadium

Arizona senior guard Caleb Love (2) dribbles the ball during the men's basketball game against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Arizona beat Duke 78-73. Photo Courtesy of Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics.

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 Krzyzewskiwhom Love retired with his decisive dagger in the 2022 Final Fourback 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.

“I’m a Tar Heel for life,” he said. “Regardless of what our differences is, or what happened in the past, I still got love for Tar Heel nation.”

Love said he had spoken to his former teammates earlier in the week. They told him to “handle business,” so he did. Love said this win was for them.

Through three volatile seasons in Chapel Hill, Love was an underwhelming rookie, a hero in March and, most recently, a scapegoat for North Carolina’s historically disappointing 2023 season. Through the ups and downs, he’ll always be remembered for his battles with Duke, lauded by Tar Heels and despised by Blue Devils — a hero and a villain, bundled into one player.

But with his performance on Friday, as part of a brand-new team, Love got the last laugh.

It wasn't with a career-high performance, or part of the UNC-Duke rivalry, but it was on his own terms.

One final show, finished with a resounding, metaphorical bow. A curtain call capped off by one last wave goodbye to the Cameron Crazies.

“I just told them goodbye,” Love said. “It’s over with.”


@dthsports |

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.