UNC Basketball: Tar Heels hold off late Duke run to advance to ACC Championship

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Garrison Brooks
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Garrison Brooks /

The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels faced off for the third time this season. This time it was in the semi finals of the ACC Tournament.

North Carolina and Duke is normally just a two-time affair.

However, on those rare occasions that the two teams meet for a third time it is usually a must-see affair, and this game was no different.

In a battle that came down to the final seconds, what happened that allowed the Tar Heels to walk away with the 74-69 win over the Blue Devils?

The Game

The first half was a series of runs. UNC opened with an18-5 run as Duke made only one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Blue Devils then went on a 22-8 run that gave Duke a one-point lead with just over two minutes to go.

UNC responded by finishing the half on a 10-4 run to take a 36-31 lead at the break. The first half saw Duke turn the ball over 10 times while also getting 21 combined points from the freshman duo of Marvin Bagley III and Gary Trent Jr.

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels got a big effort from freshman Garrison Brooks who had 8 of his 10 points in the first half. Brooks also added four rebounds and did a good job in the post.

The biggest play from the half came from Grayson Allen and not in a good way. The Blue Devils senior had another classic Allen moment when he hip-checked Brooks with just under a minute left in the half. The play led to a flagrant one for Allen and a four-point trip for the Tar Heels.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 09: Cameron Johnson
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 09: Cameron Johnson /

The second half saw the Tar Heels take control.

Behind the play of Theo Pinson and Luke Maye, the Tar Heels pushed their lead up to 16 with 5:34 remaining.

Maye had 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half and Pinson finished with eight points and seven assists. The two also helped keep Bagley and Wendell Carter in check as the Tar Heels outrebounded the taller Blue Devils by six on the offensive glass.

However, the 5:34 mark was also when things got interesting. Pinson picked up his fourth foul not much before that. It also marked the last time UNC scored a field goal. Duke went on a 13-0 run to get the game within three with just 51 seconds left.

The Tar Heels turned it over three times in the last minute, twice by Maye, and North Carolina fans had to hold their breath as Allen’s three went wide with six seconds remaining. Pinson hit his two free throws and UNC walked away with the win.

Player of the Game

Joel Berry II. This could’ve gone to Maye or Pinson as well, but I wanted to highlight the Senior who seemed to break out of his mini slump this game. Berry finished with 13 points and six assists while also hitting three triples against Duke.

Notable Stat

74. On February 8th, Duke lost at Chapel Hill 82-78. Following that loss, the Blue Devils switched to a zone that was holding opponents to under 60 points per game.

The 74 points UNC put up was the most any team had scored against the new zone and was 10 points more than they put up in Durham.

What’s Next?

Up next for the Tar Heels is a rematch against Virginia in the ACC Championship game. The last time these two teams played, the Cavaliers walked away with a 61-49 win in Charlottesville.

There is probably more riding on this game for UNC though, as a Tar Heels win probably means an opening weekend in Charlotte and a potential one seed for North Carolina.