Crushing, Crushing Loss — Tar Heels fall to Blue Devils 92-90


Feb 18, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3) reacts late in the game in overtime against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

All week long, everyone was talking about this UNC v. Duke game on Wednesday night in Durham, North Carolina. The talk of the two Hall of Fame coaches, the impact freshman, the two ranked teams, the implications on the ACC title race, the rivalry, the passion — this game had not shortage of hype.

It rarely happens, but this game really did exceed that hype. You really couldn’t ask for a better basketball game. It was an emotional roller coaster, filled with highs, lows and everything in between for fans of both teams. When your team comes out on top in these types of games, like UNC v. Louisville or UNC v. N.C. State, it is great. But UNC fans felt the wrath of the losing end of these games tonight and will be feeling the sting of defeat for a while.

Duke jumped out to an early run, feeding off of the energy of a home crowd that was more than ready to go at the opening tip, despite the weather problems in Chapel Hill. Carolina weathered that first run and settled in, playing good basketball behind the strong play of J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson. Tokoto finished with 15 points and Johnson with 18 before fouling out early in overtime.

UNC was down seven at the half but stormed back to take the lead in the second half, aided by a hobbled Jahlil Okafor, who rolled his ankle in the first half and never looked the same. UNC took a commanding lead into the final minutes of the game, leading by nine with 2:41 left after a J.P. Tokoto jumper. But we know what happened after that… Duke stormed back to tie it up and the game was sent into overtime when Marcus Paige missed a jumper with five seconds left to win it for Carolina.

In overtime, the close play continued. Duke would go on to win after J.P. Tokoto missed a jumper with 11 seconds left to tie the game and after UNC’s missed free throw play flopped as time expired. There wasn’t really a single play that Duke fans can point to when Duke won the game. They just were the better basketball team in the closing minutes of the second half and in overtime.

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This one really stings. It isn’t because of how the Tar Heels played — nobody should be ashamed of the Tar Heels effort tonight in Cameron. This doesn’t sting like the Austin Rivers shot did — that was one, succinct moment of pain. This was a slow death that started with 2:41 left in the second half and finished when the final buzzer sounded and Duke had won the game.

The way the Tar Heels lost is the reason it stings. UNC had the game in their grasp! I can’t imagine their Win Probability at that point was anything less than 80 or 90%. But Duke was able to get a couple of breaks and steal a win from the Tar Heels.

UNC drops to 18-8 and 8-5 in the ACC with the loss.

UNC and Duke play again on March 7th. Let’s hope the game is half as good as tonight, and the result is 100% different.