UNC Basketball Game Review: Tar Heels vs Duke


UNC 88 Duke 70 FINAL

It’s in the books, the biggest game of the college basketball regular season.  The biggest rivalry in college sports.  With the ACC regular season championship on the line this one had the makings of a classic going in.  The previous match up between the two rivals lived up to the hype with an exciting finish that ended in a Tar Heels devastating loss on a three pointer at the buzzer.  Will the Heels reap revenge on the hated Blue Devils?  Or can Duke pull off a sweep of the Tar Heels?

How it went down: The crowd was rocking and Duke’s students didn’t stay home for this one. Tyler Zeller started off hot scoring six of the Heels first ten points.  It was all UNC early as Carolina got anything they wanted in the first five minutes.  The Heels led 18-5 at the first timeout.  Harrison Barnes started off aggressive, using his size and strength to hit his first three shots in the early going.  Not everything the Heels were doing was perfect, Duke missed some really good looks early as the lead ballooned to 22-5.  Duke finally went on a mini 8-3 run to pull it to 26-13 at the 10 minute mark.  Carolina fell back into a spell of sloppy play, committing turnovers and taking bad shots as Duke creep back in.

Carolina held to the lead over the next five minutes by continuing the dominate the boards and convert easy shots at the basket.  UNC did a nice job of defending Duke’s three point shot, the Blue Devils started just 2-10 from beyond the arc.  The Heels first three came from Reggie Bullock at the 5:12 mark.   The North Carolina lead extended back to 18 by the 4:40 mark and it was again all Carolina.  UNC enjoyed a balanced attack as Zeller, Barnes, Marshall and Bullock all scored at least eight points.

With a eye popping 29-10 advantage on the boards and holding Duke to just 27% shooting the Heels took a 48-24 lead into halftime.

The second half, started off with Duke on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 19.  The Blue Devils had some momentum in the first few minutes of the second half.  Carolinas toughness and killer instinct were officially put on notice right away.  A flurry of bad shots and a stale half court offense looked to threaten Carolinas huge lead.  A couple of stops and Henson turn around jumpers put the lead right back at 22.

The Tar Heels survived Duke’s initial run and showed the toughness and patience needed in big games.  Still, visions of the last collapse haunted my mind, with 11+ minutes left, anything can still happen I thought.  Carolina needs to keep the pedal on the medal, is this the knockout I’ve been calling for?  After a Duke timeout, the Blue Devils went on a 12-3 run and brought the lead all the way down to 14.  Austin Rivers and Seth Curry started knocking down those open jumpers and the interior defense of Carolina disappeared.  Zeller’s foul trouble opened things up inside for Mason Plumlee and suddenly the game looked within reach for Duke.

UNCs biggest test of the season was staring them in the face.  The “Cameron Crazies” were going nuts, the Blue Devils were played inspired basketball, it’s time to toughen up.  The final seven minutes promised to be eventful.  Harrison Barnes started the half quiet then after hitting his first FG of the half, he picked up his fourth foul on a Seth Curry three.  Then Tyler Zeller picked up his fourth on a stupid over the back foul, suddenly Carolina was on it’s Heels with six minutes remaining in the game.

The half court game favored Duke as Carolinas transition game was eliminated.  This one turned into an absolute nail bitter as the Blue Devils narrowly missed a couple opportunities to take the lead into single digits.  Kendall Marshall hit several key shots and was brilliant in every way offensively throughout this entire game for Carolina.  With Barnes and Zeller out with foul trouble, it was Marshall who took the offense on his back.

The game concluded with one final stand by North Carolina.  Marshall hit a couple shots and then Barnes knocked down a transition three and opened the lead back up to 18 with two minutes left.  Carolina showed toughness and proved to the nation they are the best team in the ACC.  Best of all, they avenge that ugly loss earlier in the season.

Key Takeaways: Another show that Carolina has more integrity than Duke.  The Blue Devils did not start their seniors on Duke’s “senior night”, pathetic Coach K.  The defense UNC played in the first half was the best defensive showing this team has put together all season long.  That was championship defense.  Marshall is starting to show he can be a scorer when needed.  If he can stretch the defenses, Carolina will see you in New Orleans.  Perimeter defense was the real MVP today, UNC did a great job of defending the three point line and limiting Duke’s shooters.

Player of the game: Kendall Marshall what a game for Marshall!  Kendall came out and did a great job on both ends of the court.  Defensively the entire perimeter did a nice job of defending the three point shot of Duke.  Marshall was a true dual threat PG today scoring points by driving it to the basket and hitting jump shots.  And of course creating for others, proof why Marshall IS the best PG in the entire NCAA.

Up Next: It’s time for the ACC Tournament!  Keeping It Heel will bring you coverage of every team, every game and every single minute of the conference tournament.

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