By: Grant Pomatto
Considered on of the most intense rivalry of all of sports, another chapter of the greatest rivalry in college basketball happened Wednesday night as the 20th ranked Duke Blue Devils traveled the close 8 miles to Chapel Hill to face the 5th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Duke and Carolina have combined to win or share 48 ACC regular season titles (77.4% of the total) and 36 tournament titles (58% of the total), including 14 of 15 from 1996–2011. North Carolina leads the all time series 133-107 however the Blue Devils have won 10 of the last 13 meetings and the Blue devils have had the better of Tobacco Road winning the last three matchups. And this matchup sure didn’t disappoint.
The Duke Blue Devils went into Chapel Hill and pulled out an upset victory over the Tar heels 74-73. It is the 4th consecutive win for the Blue Devils against North Carolina, the first ever 4 game winning streak in the matchup between these two historic programs.
Both teams in the first half played one of the best halves of college basketball that I have seen this year. It seemed many times that North Carolina was going to pull away finally, but there were always areas on the defensive end that they couldn’t get a stop and gave up a lot of easy shots. The reason why North Carolina remained in the lead in the first half was because of Brice Johnson. Johnson had averaged a double double within the first 16 minutes of the game. He finished the half with 18 points and 11 rebounds in just the first 20 minutes. What kept Duke in the game is the attacking strategy of Grayson Allen who finished the first half with 13 points and 4-5 from the charity stripe.
The rivalry lived up to expectations in the second half too as the Tar Heels and Blue Devils went punch for punch down to the final bell. North Carolina could never really pull away from Duke in large part because of both Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. The game really wasn’t decided until the last 10 seconds when Joel Berry of North Carolina drove the lane with 5 seconds left and put up a shot that was partially blocked by Duke. Deciding not to take a timeout at the end, head coach Roy Williams for North Carolina decided to let them play on. Grayson Allen had the go ahead winning free throws of the game and finished with 23 points.
No matter what anyone says, these are two of the best team in the game right now. It might not look like Duke is strong enough to make the tournament because of the injury bug, but with the pieces that they do have, they are capable to make a nice run in the ACC and NCAA tournament. This win also doesn’t hurt their cause for a bid in the big dance. As for North Carolina, they just need to continue doing what they have been doing all year. They have really improved their free throw shooting and have taken care of the ball. It also helps that you have one of the best guards in college basketball in Marcus Paige and arguably the best big man in the game in Brice Johnson. This game really didn’t decide anything, only the fact that Duke remains dominant in the rivalry between these two teams. Look for both to have a strong run in the ACC tournament and meet up again in the conference championship.