Nothing could be finer than seeing Duke and Carolina, baby!
The greatest rivalry in college sports, with the two ACC schools separated by eight miles, was as intense as ever. You could feel it in the air at the Dean Dome right from the opening tip. What else would you expect from UNC and Duke?
Duke got the W as the Tar Heels fell to 2-7 in the ACC. Wow!
The Tar Heels were in a must-win situation in my opinion. A victory could have springboarded North Carolina to bounce back from a slow league start and compete for an NCAA berth. A loss, even a close one, would not be a moral victory. At this stage, adding to the W column was all that mattered for Roy Williams and company.
North Carolina played with a chip on its shoulder. It showed that if you play great defense, you have the opportunity to get to the winner's circle. That was an area of concern during the Tar Heels' 1-6 run prior to their Wednesday night clash against the Dukies.
In breaking it down, however, the key difference was leadership and reliable scoring. You knew that Duke could count on Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, but the Tar Heels were searching for someone to step up in clutch time. Execution and efficiency down the stretch was another key for Duke. The Blue Devils understood each other's strengths and weaknesses.
The Blue Devils really struggled on two-point field goal attempts. They made just three in the first half and still went to the locker room ahead by a point. To offset those issues, Duke was a monster on the offensive glass.
It was an ugly basketball game in terms of shooting. There was definite inconsistency on the perimeter for the Tar Heels. I think going into the season, we flat-out overrated them because of their name. Remember, the Tar Heels were No. 4 in the preseason poll!
The game was physical as well, and it took its toll on several players. Lance Thomas of Duke suffered a knee injury. Ed Davis of North Carolina had his wrist taped up. Tar Heel guard Larry Drew played through a knee injury.
North Carolina lost its fourth straight home game and dropped its seventh game in eight outings. This is not vintage Tar Heel hoops, but opponents should take their shots now. North Carolina has very limited guard play, but the future is bright. They have a great class coming in, led by the nation's top recruit, Harrison Barnes.
My friends, the intensity was there, but in the end, the Dukies got the W because of consistency and a super performance by Scheyer, who plays with great control and a real understanding of the game. The Tar Heels played with passion and pride, but it was not enough.