The North Carolina Tar Heels come out on top in their rivalry game against Duke on Saturday night
With neither team ranked and no fans in attendance, the first UNC-Duke matchup of the year felt a little different leading in. But in the end, it was a typical UNC-Duke game in terms of a nail biter and the Tar Heels came out on top
Freshman guard Caleb Love put his mark on this rivalry, scoring 25 points including going 4 of 5 from the three-point line to help the Tar Heels past Duke 91-87 in Durham on Saturday. The 25 points were a career-high for the freshman, beating his career high of 20 against Wake Forest earlier in the year.
UNC jumped out early on the Blue Devils, grabbing a 10-point lead in the first half and started 3-of-3 from the three-point line, an unusual start as the Tar Heels were the worst three-point shooting team coming into the game.
But un typical fashion, Duke battled back.
The Blue Devils tied the game in the first half and got hot led by Joey Baker, Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore. Duke seemed to figure it out and even took the lead at one point before UNC rallied again. UNC took a 41-39 lead into halftime as senior Garrison Brooks got off to a hot start. Brooks took advantage of the mismatch down low on Jaylen Johnson, dominating in the paint early on.
In the second half, UNC once again jumped out to a double-digit lead as they extended it to 12 as they went on a 11-5 run to open the half. With things seemingly in control, UNC got too comfortable and Duke went on a run to cut the lead down to two. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils exchanged buckets for most of the final 10 minutes and sloppy play by UNC kept Duke in the game.
With UNC leading 88-83 following two free throws by Love, Duke responded with a quick layup from Moore. D.J. Steward then cut the lead down to 1 at 88-87 with :19 seconds left. Leaky Black made one of two free throws to give UNC a 89-87 lead late. But a key traveling call on Moore essentially ended things as Black would add two more free throws in the end to seal it.
UNC went to their bigs early and often in the second half, using their advantage in the paint to overpower the Blue Devils. Armando Bacot finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds while Brooks added 12.
The Tar Heels did have to hold off a late Duke surge and things got dicey at the end but it will go down as a big win for the UNC on the road. There are some things that need to be cleaned up, mainly free throws, but the Tar Heels have put themselves in a position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Each UNC starter finished in double-digits with Kerwin Walton and Black going for 12. Sharpe added 11 points and 9 rebounds in the win.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Tar Heels who improve to 12-6 overall and 7-4 in ACC play this season. They will now host Miami on Monday night in Chapel Hill.
For more on the UNC Basketball program, please check back with Keeping It Heel.