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With Duke loss, Tar Heels desperate for ACC wins


Feb. 6, 2004
The Duke-North Carolina game on Thursday night was just another classic in the greatest rivalry in college sports. That's right, I don't want to hear about Ohio State-Michigan in football -- give me Duke-Carolina, baby!

ESPN play-by-play man Mike Patrick was in Hawaii to call this weekend's NFL Pro Bowl. Let me tell you, I'd rather be at Duke-Carolina then out there!
Now every game has meaning for North Carolina. You don't want to have your tourney chances come down to the jury -- the NCAA selection committee.

This game featured so many outstanding performances -- the stars really shined. For North Carolina, Sean May had 15 points and 21 rebounds. Rashad McCants had another big game with 27 points and nine rebounds. For Duke, Shelden Williams had 22 points and 12 boards. The underrated Daniel Ewing came up with a solid performance (19 points). Diaper dandy Luol Deng had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

In the end, it was one play made by a senior, Chris Duhon, that made the difference. Duhon's driving shot gave the Dukies the hard-fought 83-81 overtime W in a real thriller.

It all comes down to Duke's mentality, that winner's attitude at the end of the game. The Blue Devils know how to finish the job, just like Kentucky has against the likes of Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida. These teams simply find ways to get to the winner's circle.

As for North Carolina, this was a devastating loss on its home court. The Tar Heels fell to 13-6 (but 3-5 in the ACC and a mere 5-5 in their past 10 games). Now coach Roy Williams' squad has a tough turnaround, less than 48 hours to prepare to face Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons won the first meeting this season, a 119-114 triple-overtime thriller.

Now every game has meaning for North Carolina. You don't want to have your tourney chances come down to the jury -- the NCAA selection committee. Is this Tar Heels team one of the top 65 in America? Are you kidding me, of course they are. But you don't want to finish below .500 in your conference.

With the next two games at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, North Carolina is staring at a possible 3-7 ACC record going into next Sunday's home game against Maryland (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The remaining schedule also has road games at Virginia and NC State, as well as a rematch against the Dukies to end the regular season on Saturday, March 6 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

The Tar Heels have wins over Connecticut, NC State and Georgia Tech on their resumé already. But they need to get a few more in the victory column. Thursday night would have been a nice one. In the end, Duke got it done in a thriller!

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an analyst for ESPN ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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