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Heel Tough Blog: The Greatest Rivalry in College Sports Renewed

The week off definitely hurt the Heels as it seems all their momentum was abruptly halted in little John Coliseum Tuesday night. The Heels scored just 50 points in a 13 point loss to the Tigers in arguably the worst game they have played all season. The lone bright spot was the balanced scoring. Love and Walton both had 9, Brooks had 8 and Sharpe had 16. None of our starters reached double figures and the normally steady Bacot accounted for just 1 point.

The struggles started early as 4 of our first 6 shots were from behind the arc and we didn’t grab our first offensive rebound until the final minute of the first half. We finished with 7 offensive rebounds on 27 misses which led to just 6 second chance points. That is season low and isn’t going to get the job done when we rely so much on converting second chance opportunities.

Turnovers were the biggest story of the game (well besides free throws but we will get to that in a second). The Heels committed 17 turnovers which turned into 13 points for Clemson. We only attempted 44 shots. Clemson attempted 57. That is a 13 shot difference. That also isn’t going to win you any ball games. We had as many turnovers as made field goals and went 17-44 from the field. We totaled just 8 assists on the night. For those that aren’t good at math, we had over double the amount of turnovers as we did assists. Also not a winning formula.

Free throw shooting was terrible. Terrible may also be a nice word. We finished 11-21 but were 5-14 at one point. Sharpe went just 4-10 from the line. I could see this being a problem down the road as teams may decide to play “Hack a Shaq” instead of giving up an easy bucket to the freshman. We are now 26-53 from the line in the past 3 games. Again for anyone that isn’t good at math, that is not a very high percentage. And for those of you that want to point the finger at Roy… you know they are putting up plenty of free throws in practice. That is just lack of game execution or personal focus. Love did go 4-4 from the Line in a night where he once again struggled from the field and with turnovers. Love went 2-10 with 4 turnovers. Davis didn’t score.

This game the team seemed to take a step backward and reverted to old ways in just about every statistic. The Heels closed to within 4 (42-38) midway through the second half, but then went 7 straight possessions without scoring. To make matters worse, the tigers won the points in the paint battle 26-18. We mustered just 3 fast break points to Clemson’s 4.

Hopefully the Heels got everything out of their system before they travel 8 miles down the road to play that school in Durham Saturday night. It is time to renew the greatest rivalry in all of college sports despite the seemingly off years both teams are having.


  • The 2020-21 season marks the 101st anniversary of the first Duke-North Carolina game, which was played January 24, 1920 -- a 36-25 UNC win in Durham.

  • Saturday's game in Durham is the 254th all-time meeting.

  • North Carolina leads the series, 139-114

  • Duke has won three straight overall, on the heels of a Heels' three-game winning streak.

  • The Heels are 49-55 in Durham and have lost 6 of the last 8 in Cameron.

  • Over the last 100 games in the series, Duke leads 51-49.

  • Saturday's game snaps an NCAA-record streak of 153 consecutive games in the series being played with at least one team ranked in the AP Top 25. The last time neither Duke nor UNC were ranked for this game was Feb. 27, 1960


  • Duke swept last year's two meetings with North Carolina, winning 98-96 in an overtime thriller at the Smith Center on Feb. 8 and claiming an 89-76 victory at Cameron Indoor on March 7

  • In the thriller in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8, the Heels led by 13 with 3:55 left in regulation and by five with 20 seconds remaining in overtime before falling in overtime.

  • Tre Jones hit a running jumper at the buzzer in regulation to send the game to overtime, and freshman Wendell Moore Jr.'s tip in at the buzzer was the game winner in the extra period.

  • Duke had 15 consecutive points to end regulation and start overtime … It was the 14th Duke-Carolina game to be decided in overtime

  • Brooks scored 18 and Bacot scored 12 in the Feb 8 matchup.

  • Brooks was the leading scorer in the March 7th game with 26. Bacot added 13. Both had double doubles.


UNC 11-6 (6-4 in the ACC) coming off a loss at Clemson

Duke 7-6 (5-4 in the ACC) coming off a loss at Miami

What if I told you the greatest rivalry in college sports and maybe even all of sports would take place in an empty arena? What if I added that neither team would be ranked? This seems like an impossibility, but the year is 2021 and this is just one more thing that just doesnt seem right but it is. When the Tar Heels travel to Durham to face the Blue Devils it will be the first time since February 27, 1960 that neither team is ranked. This might seem to take away from the hype of the game but all that needs to be said is UNC vs Duke. As Jay Bilas says it always delivers. It will pit two young teams against each other. The #2 recruiting class of UNC and the #3 recruiting class of Duke. This is why you choose to attend either school, for a chance to compete in this rivalry. I will take an empty Cameron Indoor over the normally rowdy, hostile crowd. Perhaps adding another level this chapter is Caleb Love’s recruitment. Love’s dream school was Duke, but after Roach committed to Duke and filled the point guard spot, Love was forced to look elsewhere. Love played for the dad of former Duke standout, Jason Tatum, in high school. We all know how this ended. Love committed to UNC and is the starting point guard, while Roach is coming off the bench at Duke. Love will have to handle the pressure from Goldwire. Goldwire is a solid defender and is the lone senior of any significance. He turns the ball over less than his starting counterpart Steward who averages more turnover than assists. Goldwire is a little better than 3:1. Goldwire is less of a threat to score than Steward, but still don’t leave him open from 3. He still plays for Duke.

I believe the key match ups for the game will be our post players vs theirs. UNC starts Brooks and Bacot who are your typical back to the basket post players. They are both 6’10'' and want to bang bodies in the post. Duke starts Hurt and Johnson. Both of them stand at 6’9'' so the height difference isn’t significant. They thrive more on the outside, especially Hurt. Hurt is the team’s best 3 point shooter at 42%. We need to run him off the line and force him to create some of his own shots. Hurt fills the role of the stereotypical white guy on Duke that we love to hate. Johnson is next in line to be Duke’s next one and done. He doesn’t shoot the 3 well and works better driving to the basket, instead of having his back to the basket. I would like to see black get the defensive assignment on Johnson because he is faster and more capable of keeping him in front. Moore is shorter at 6’5” but isn’t as big of a scoring threat as Johnson. He isn’t a threat from 3 and he isn’t as quick. He may be a better matchup for either Brooks or Bacot. Both teams will have the advantage on the offensive end. Duke’s forwards being quicker than their defender and UNC’s forwards being bigger than theirs. How the teams handle the defensive liability will be key. Foul trouble for either team could play a factor like it did in the Kentucky game. This game isn’t not on a neutral court so I would place my bets on Duke getting the benefit of the doubt there. Duke, however, has a drop off in production once Hurt and Johnson leave the game. Sharpe is just as capable as Brooks and Bacot and is more physically imposing.

Managing turnovers will be key once again. Duke averages over 16 points a game off turnovers, a little over 8 steals and almost 13 fast break points. Both teams want to play fast, but we have to be smart. We can’t let them play fast by turning the ball over the way we did against Clemson. Our best offense sometimes is a missed shot and you can’t get an offensive rebound if you never get a shot off. Our lack of ability to get a shot up and lack of offensive rebounding was a huge factor in the Clemson game. Our free throws were horrendous against Clemson and was a factor in Duke’s comeback win in Chapel Hill last year. In an empty arena with no one guarding you, it’s inexcusable to miss free throws, especially at the rate at which we do. Just plain lack of focus that needs to be corrected. 2 free throws count the same as a dunk, although less glamorous, take the points where and when you can get them. We do have a slight edge in the experience category and if it's a close game Brooks’ and Black’s experience could be key. Duke seems to be all but out of the NCAA picture, while UNC’s tournament future seems to hang in the balance with each game. This game will tell us a lot about whether the Clemson game was the outlier or the 3 game win streak was.


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