Last night in as emotional, and hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium as we’ll ever see, Carolina waltzed into Durham and took down #4 Duke, 94-81, to send Coach K out with one final home loss of his legendary career. The Tar Heels entered the game as 11.5 point underdogs, and many believed they would be overwhelmed by the spectacle that was the celebration of Coach K. Instead, UNC look poised from the opening tip, and with all the pressure on Duke to not let their coach suffer a loss in his final home game, they made every play in the closing minutes to secure the win. The win earns UNC the #3 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament, locks themselves into the NCAA Tournament, but that’s not all. Hubert Davis becomes the first coach since Matt Doherty to win his first game in Cameron, and in the process, validated Roy Williams selecting him to be the next caretaker of the best basketball program in the country.
For the first time in UNC history, they had four players score 20 points or more, as Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Armando Bacot, and Brady Manek combined to score 86 of the team's 94 points. Armando Bacot scored 23 on 10-11 shooting, and in the process may have earned himself ACC Player of the Year honors. Brady Manek recorded a double-double, with 20 points, and 11 rebounds, shooting 7-16 from the field, including 5-10 from behind the arc. R.J. Davis added 21 points 9-16 shooting, as he played the entire game along with Manek. Caleb Love responded after an 0-8 start, to score 22 points, on 4-17 shooting, but he was 12-12 from the foul line.
After trailing 41-39 at the break, UNC would outscore Duke, 55-40 in the second half on their way to the win. For the game, UNC shot 49% from the field, and 39% from behind the three-point line. More importantly, they converted 19-22 foul shots, completed to Duke going just 6-8. UNC also committed just 5 turnovers, as they won their fifth straight game away from Chapel Hill, in their most complete performance of the season.
After falling flat in the first matchup, you expected Carolina to play with the energy and emotion you usually have in the Duke game. Last night you saw the vision of Carolina Basketball under Hubert Davis, as this team continues to mold into form at the right time.
Second Half: Carolina outscored Duke 55-40 in the final 20 minutes and did so while shooting almost 60% from the field. The quartet of Love, Davis, Bacot, and Manek all scored double figures, as they all played the entire second half.
Armando Bacot: Dominant performance from the junior big man, scoring 23 points on 10-11 shooting, while also hauling in 7 rebounds. After the game, Coach K said he’s been the Player of the Year in the ACC all season long, and he justified that in this game. He made a key block after a Davis turnover, that would’ve trimmed the lead to 82-78, instead Carolina raced down the other way to make it 84-76. Upon announcing his return last summer, Bacot said he wanted to leave a legacy at Carolina, last night he did just that.
Free Throws: You have to make your freebies at Cameron to give yourself a chance, and Carolina did that to the tune of going 19-22 as a team. They were led by Caleb Love’s 12-12, as he was in attack mode most of the night. Moreover, they played defense without fouling, as Duke was 6-8 from the stripe. The 13 point differential from the foul line, was the final margin of victory for UNC.
Turnovers: In addition to making your foul shots, you can’t turn the ball over in that building, and they didn’t as they had just 5 miscues. Duke was only able to turn those 5 turnovers into 2 points. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils committed 9 turnovers, and Carolina scored 10 points off of those.
Hubert Davis: What a way to get your win in the rivalry, becoming the first UNC coach since Matt Doherty to win in his first time in Durham. There have been many doubters of Davis so far (including this writer), but last night proved he was the right man for the job, upon the retirement of Roy Williams last April. He won’t win ACC Coach of the Year, but a 20 plus win season, and a third-place finish in the ACC, with a road win at Duke, is a solid way to start your coaching career.
Up Next: Carolina is off to Brooklyn where they’ll compete in the ACC Tournament. UNC secured a double-bye in the event, meaning they won’t play until Thursday. They’ll be awaiting the winner of Virginia/Louisville or Georgia Tech at 9:30 PM Thursday night.
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