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Heel Tough Blog: Duke Recap

The Duke-UNC rivalry is known for bringing out the best in both teams, and that usually generates a legendary basketball game. That didn’t happen tonight, as Duke waltzed into Chapel Hill for the final time under Coach K, and routed Carolina 87-67 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Armando Bacot started the game on Paolo Banchero and consequently picked up two quick fouls, which took the Heels out of the game, as they trailed 31-8 at the under 12 timeout. A 20-8 run to finish the half, had Carolina within 11 entering the second stanza, but a 10-0 Duke run to start the second half, all but ended the game. The Blue Devils were led by AJ Griffin’s career-high, 27 points, as Duke shot 58% from the field, and 47% from behind the arc. Brady Manek kept UNC in the game in the first half, as he led the team with 21 points, and connected on 6-10 three-point shots. UNC shot 41% from the field, as both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis had forgettable nights, on the sports' biggest stage. Duke also pounded Carolina on the backboards 40-24, as their physicality was too much for UNC tonight.

First place was on the line tonight between the two rivals, and the Duke keeps them on top of the ACC, meanwhile, UNC is 0-7 against Quad 1 opponents this season, making it hard to envision seeing this program, participate in the NCAA Tournament. In the process, Hubert Davis is now the third of the last four UNC coaches to lose their first game against Duke, as Matt Doherty was the only one to beat the Blue Devils in his first time, while Bill Guthridge, Roy Williams, and now Hubert Davis all lost.

Against premier opponents, this season, Carolina has not only lost, but they haven't looked competitive at times. The Tar Heels have now gotten blown out by Tennessee, Kentucky, on neutral courts, at Wake Forest, and at Miami, and now tonight at home against Duke. The first Duke-UNC game is usually the sign that the college basketball season is tipping off, as we’re nearing Selection Sunday. With that in mind, despite a modest 16-7 record, we still don’t know who this team is, as their head coach, has been left gasping for straws, and at times, has looked in over his head. Here’s what to take away from tonight’s disappointing loss to Duke:

  1. Guards Struggled: Entering the game, it was imperative that both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis played at a high level, to give UNC a chance to win. Instead, Duke harassed Caleb Love into 3-10 shooting with 4 turnovers, and Davis into 4-11 shooting. When those two play well, Carolina has been a dominant team, but when they struggle like tonight, they don’t look very competitive. In Love’s last seven games, he’s shooting 27-102 from the field, which averages out to 27%.

  2. AJ Griffin Dominated: So much entering the game was about how Carolina was going to handle Banchero, but AJ Griffin was the best player on the floor tonight, scoring 27 points 11-17 shooting. Leaky Black started off on Griffin, but to much avail, as Griffin was just at another level tonight. If he plays like that moving forward, it’s going to be hard to imagine Duke not winning the ACC this season.

  3. Slow Starts: In the first 9 minutes of the first and second half, Carolina was outscored 35-9, effectively taking them out of the game, before it even really started. The Tar Heels looked like the team we’ve seen on the road, at home, in an emotional, jam-packed Smith Center.

  4. Rebounding: Not having Armando Bacot for an extended period of time in the first half, played a factor, as Carolina was pummeled on the glass 40-24. The Tar Heels entered tonight’s one of the best defensive rebounding teams in college basketball, but tonight they grabbed just 18 of them.

  5. Crowd: Have to tip your cap to the crowd in the Dean Dome for tonight’s game, that had little to cheer about from the start. They stayed engaged during the first half, before Duke’s 10-0 spurt to start the second half all but ended the game.

Up Next: Carolina will hit the road on Tuesday night, as they’ll take on Clemson at 6 PM on the ACC Network.

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