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North Carolina 83, Duke 93: Semifinal game slips away from the Tar Heels

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The Tar Heels run into a brick wall of fouls and crumble in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Duke Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If you ever needed more proof that Joel Berry II is the heart and soul of this Carolina team, tonight was it. With refs calling a whistle on any and everything, Berry was forced to sit for a long stretch of the second half. Without him, UNC couldn’t get anything to go their way.

The first half was pretty much all light blue. The Tar Heels successfully got the ball down low to their bigs who were able to feast at the rim. That helped UNC lead for the entire first half, pushing the lead to double digits before failing to close out the half strong in a way that was eerily reminiscent of yesterday.

No one wants to hear excuses, particularly when Carolina is involved, but the officiating changed everything about the game. In the Miami game yesterday, both teams were able to compete without the ticky tack calls that can really change the complexion of the game. Today, everything was a foul on anyone wearing white. The foul discrepancy can’t be ignored. It can’t be justified.

Everything changed when Berry was whistled for his fourth foul with 15 minutes left to play. UNC crumbled without their point guard. They had a number of good shots that just wouldn’t fall in. Justin Jackson seemed to still be forcing his shot, although he did make three shots from beyond the arc. UNC’s defense was good in the first half before foul trouble really took them out of it. The offense only scored 34 points (to Duke’s 51) in the second half and shot under 30% after halftime.

A season high in personal fouls. Luke Maye fouled out. Make of that what you will.

Carolina now waits to see what seed they’ll be awarded on Selection Sunday. In the mean time, here are some wise words from a man who knows a thing or two.