We have talked all season long about the growth and progression of first year point guard Caleb Love, who came to Carolina with high expectations as a 5 star recruit. While his season hasn’t been as smooth as anyone involved with Carolina Basketball would’ve liked (he was benched in early January), it’s clear he has turned the corner individually, and it’s no coincidence that the Tar Heels season has since turned around as well.
One of the things that makes the Duke-Carolina rivalry special, is that it brings out the best in everyone involved. That means the coaches, fans, media, but most importantly the players. Last night the setting of playing in the game’s biggest rivalry, in a timeless venue, brought the best in Caleb Love. Love scored a career high 25 points, on 9-16 shooting, and handed out 7 assists. While head coach Roy Williams’ busted his chops in the postgame for the 5 turnovers, Williams’ also knows how big his performance was for his team. While Carolina used their size in the post to power themselves to a win in Cameron Indoor Stadium, it was Love who was challenged to make the plays in the decisive minutes. And he did, and in the process he achieved some things not many Tar Heels have achieved against the Blue Devils:
Love became the first Tar Heel EVER to record 25 points and 7 assists in Durham. Charlie Scott recorded 34 points and 8 assists, and Phil Ford once dealt Duke a 28 point, 8 assist game, but both of those occurred in Chapel Hill.
Love also became just the third UNC freshman to record at least 20 points and 5 assists, joining Walter Davis (31 points & 5 assists), and Joseph Forte (24 points and 5 assists). Love’s performance rivals the one of Forte, as both of their big games happened in Cameron.
Love's 25 points ties Raymond Felton for the most points scored by a Tar Heel rookie in their career game against the Blue Devils.
The last Tar Heel point guard to record at least 25 points and 5 assists before Caleb Love produced 25 and 7 last night? You have to go back to 2009, when Ty Lawson did so, as UNC won 101-87 for their fourth straight win at Duke. Lawson would go on to win ACC Player of the Year, as UNC would cut down the nets that April.
Lastly, Love set personal season highs in points, field goals made, and assists, all against a team that passed him up in his recruiting cycle.
The challenge for Love will be to build off his historic performance against Duke, when Carolina hosts Miami tomorrow night. But one thing is for certain, Love proved last night he belongs on the biggest stage college basketball has to offer, and in the process he made his way into the hearts of many Tar Heel fans across the country, and the world.
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