Feb. 9, 2005
DURHAM, North Carolina — It was only fitting that Duke's defense made the difference in the final moments of another classic in the greatest rivalry in college sports.
The Blue Devils did a great job negating North Carolina's running game in a 71-70 victory over their ACC rival Wednesday night. Duke stopped the transition offense that helped the Tar Heels average 92.2 points per game before their visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Down one point with less than 20 seconds left, North Carolina put the ball in the hands of its creative Thomas Edison point guard, "Everybody Loves" Raymond Felton. He wanted to penetrate but had no place to go, and then he picked up his dribble early.
The bottom line was that North Carolina couldn't get its fast break going. Turnovers were also a factor, as Roy Williams' club gave the ball away 23 times.
What an amazing job defensively as the Tar Heels failed to get off a final shot.
Duke made this a five-on-five game for most of the intense evening. It is hard to describe the incredible intensity involved between these two ACC powers. The Blue Devils controlled the tempo and flow of the game.
Duke guards J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing were able to hit some big shots, and center Shelden Williams was a force inside. Williams became the first player in Duke history to have at least five blocks and five steals in the same game.
One key for the Dukies was a surprise. Diaper dandy DeMarcus Nelson gave the Blue Devils quality minutes and was so effective, hitting several key shots. He was the unsung hero for coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Teams always have a chance to win when they can score from the perimeter. Redick couldn't get many open looks and had to work hard to get his shots. But he still found a way to come through, the sign of a true All-American. Give Carolina guard Jackie Manuel a lot of credit for a great performance guarding Redick.
Tar Heels center Sean May had a phenomenal game for North Carolina (23 points, 18 boards). He established good position inside and fought hard.
The bottom line was that North Carolina couldn't get its fast break going. Turnovers were also a factor, as coach Roy Williams' club gave the ball away 23 times. North Carolina started executing in its halfcourt sets better in the second half to rally from a seven-point halftime deficit.
You also have to give credit to Duke's sixth man: The Cameron Crazies were as loud as ever, and those great fans gave the Blue Devils momentum early. You could tell that the players felt the fans' emotion, which helped propel them to an early 10-2 lead. What an incredible feeling when the game was over, baby!
These two programs respect each other. They know each other's tendencies. It was a great, great college basketball game. And on this night, the Blue Devils enjoyed a celebration.
That said, nothing has changed in my mind: I still feel that North Carolina will cut down the nets in St. Louis when March Madness is done.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.