On Senior Night in the Smith Center, with their season on the line needing a win to continue their push to make the NCAA Tournament, Carolina fell short against their arch-rival Duke, 62-57. It didn’t seem possible for Carolina to play as bad on offense as they did in the first matchup, a 63-57 loss in Cameron, but you could argue they played worse, as they shot just 30% from the field, and 22% from behind the arc. Conversely, Duke shot only 38% from the field, and 31% from behind the arc, as Carolina defended at a high enough level to win the game. Three Tar Heels scored in double figures, led by Armando Bacot’s double-double, as he totaled 17 points and 11 rebounds. R.J. Davis also scored 17 points, on 6-13 shooting, as he left everything on the court, to try and help Carolina win the game, but it wasn’t enough, Caleb Love was the only other Tar Heel in double figures, scoring just 11 points, on 3-12 shooting, but was 0-6 from behind the arc.
When Carolina took a 49-45 lead after back-to-back made triples, it felt as if they were taking control of the game, but they could never stretch the lead larger than that. Duke took a timeout, but they never lost their composure, as Kyle Filipowski arguably just secured himself with the ACC Player of the Year award, as he scored 22 points, and grabbed 13 rebounds, as he was the best player on the floor tonight. Carolina had a chance to even the game at 60 apiece after a missed Filipowski foul shot, and even though Duke opted to not foul up three, Caleb Love couldn’t recreate the magic from last season, as he missed a potentially game-tying three, which led to a run out for the Blue Devils, to secure the final margin of 62-57.
Hubert Davis is now 0-2 at home against Carolina and falls to 2-3 overall against Duke, after winning two of the biggest games in the history of the rivalry just last season. Just like Coach Smith, and Coach Williams were before him. With the way this season has gone, Hubert has received a lot of criticism which is justified, given the goals and expectations entering the season, and tonight’s loss isn’t going to quiet the critics that still exist in the fan base, even though he took the program to the brink of a national championship just last season.
There’s no denying that this loss hurts as much as any this season, or as much as any loss to the Blue Devils in recent memory. Even though everyone tried to tell us that the rivalry was never going to be the same, this rivalry delivered as it always does, unfortunately, Carolina came out on the wrong side of both contests this season. The loss tonight means that the Heels have to win four games in four days to qualify for the Big Dance, which was done as recently as last season when Virginia Tech took down Carolina on their way to the tournament title:
Senior Night: If this was the last game for Armando Bacot in the Smith Center, this will be a hard way to go out. The same can be said for Leaky Black who set a program for the most games played in the history of Carolina Basketball, at 153. Carolina held pregame ceremonies but opted for no postgame speeches this time around. Hubert Davis is now 1-1 on Senior Night as the head coach of the Tar Heels.
Poor Shooting: Whether it was the pressure of the season being on the line, or the nerves that exist in a typical Duke game, Carolina just never settled into the game from an offensive standpoint. As hard as it is, you have to give Duke credit because their grit defensively, was on full display once again tonight. They didn’t make a basket the final 4:20, and finished the game 0-7 from the field, and if you want to extend it even further, 1-9.
Foul Trouble: Despite the game being played in Chapel Hill, the whistle wasn’t in the favor of the Tar Heels, as both Pete Nance and Armando Bacot experienced foul trouble in the first half. That meant guys like Dontrez Styles, Jalen Washington, and even Tyler Nickel saw more action than probably originally thought going into tonight’s game. That’s a prime example of why Carolina needed to develop more depth in the non-conference season, but that was hard to do when they were struggling to beat mid-major competition.
Points in the Paint: Duke outscored Carolina 30-16 in the paint, as they were able to convert on their shots at the rim more consistently than UNC. The Heels got plenty of looks at or near the rim, but they just weren’t able to convert, given the impact that Filipowski had on the game tonight.
Second Chance Points: It was dead even on the glass, as both teams not only grabbed 39 total rebounds, but they both hauled in 10 offensive rebounds. The only difference was Duke scored 14 second-chance points, compared to only 7 for UNC. In games like this, those loose balls or missed box-outs are the difference between winning and losing the game.
Up Next: Carolina now heads to Greensboro to compete in the ACC Tournament, with their first game coming on Wednesday, taking on the winner of the 7/10 game from Tuesday’s action.