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UNC vs Duke: Three Things Learned

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Luke Maye, Grayson Allen, and defense (again).

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke vs North Carolina Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you fully expected UNC to be playing tonight in the ACC Championship. There are probably a few of you, but if you did not, there is no shame in admitting that. I’m not surprised UNC lives to play another day, but I also wouldn’t say I expected it. That is why last night’s victory was so satisfying.

Last night’s win against Duke had everything. Clutch shots. Two huge Duke comebacks. Surprising heroes. Thunderous dunks. Head scratching turnovers. Inconsistent (but not terrible) officiating. And in the end, a Carolina victory. That is the perfect equation for an off season’s worth of bragging rights.*

*Contingent upon Duke not winning the national title, which they certainly could.

What else did we learn?

Defense is Rolling

Yeah, we're sounding like broken records. We apologize for nothing.

For most of the night, the Heels forced Duke to beat them on the interior. By rarely helping off Duke’s shooters (until those bizarre last few minutes), UNC dared Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. shoulder the offensive burden. Duke happily obliged by feeding their twin towers on almost every trip down the court. In response, The Heels seemingly double-teamed every post entry with some combination of Theo Pinson, Luke Maye, Brandon Huffman, Sterling Manley, and Garrison Brooks.

That tactic led to Carter and Bagley combining for 33 points, while shooting 11-14 from the foul line. It wasn’t enough to give Duke the win.

Consider these numbers:

  • Duke shot 6-23 (26.7%) from three. That’s the lowest percentage by a UNC opponent this season.
  • Duke’s 6 made three-pointers were the second lowest of an UNC opponent all season (and tying Miami’s total from...Thursday).
  • Duke shot 22-54 (40.7%). That was their third lowest percentage this season.
  • Duke’s 18 turnovers were one shy of their season high. It was the third most of any UNC opponent.
  • UNC had a season-high 11 steals

This entire week, UNC has demonstrated championship caliber defense. That trend continued last night.

Luke’s Redemption

After a series of subpar shooting performances, including 1-15 against Miami, there was some concern that Luke Maye may have hit a physical wall. His shooting percentage against Duke, Syracuse, and Miami was well below his yearly average of 49.6%. In his last 6 games (including last night), he is has made just 2 of 12 attempts from three. His shots weren’t dropping, and he seemingly had a reduced presence on the court.

Considering his increased workload this season, while also often being undersized against his competition, it was not an unfair question. It was, however, a very lazy question that did not take numerous factors into account. That's probably a topic for a different day, but at a minimum Maye proved he is just fine, thank you very much,.

Throughout the game he proved to be an absolute nuisance to the Blue Devils. Finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds — his 16th of the season — Maye stayed aggressive, and was a completely different player than last week at Cameron. A mix of layups and midrange jump shots opened up his passing game to the tune of 4 assists. That carried over to the defensive end, where he also tallied 2 steals and 1 block.

Luke Maye reminded everyone that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Good-bye Grayson

I make no apologies for the ensuing rant.

I could write a 2,000 word think piece about how anyone’s intense dislike of Grayson Allen is, under no circumstances, a “you problem”. Grayson Allen has earned every single piece of praise and criticism he has received over the last four years. Last night, he provided another highlight.

In the waning minutes of the first half, Allen decided to butt-check Garrison Brooks, and send him tumbling to the floor. Allen was called for a flagrant 1, much to Coach K’s chagrin.

That seems pretty tame right? Even the trio of former players and coaches calling the game cried out that it was a terrible call. Jay Bilas (Duke grad), Seth Greenberg (former VaTech head coach), and Jay Williams (Duke grad) all agreed in unison. How could the refs call that!? Greenberg said that Brooks falling down was a “flop”, and that Allen’s play happens “fifty times a game”. Williams said “the past history of Allen” was why the refs called a Flagrant 1.

Good. God. Almighty.

How many excuses can anyone with a public platform make for this young man’s questionable decisions in a basketball game? Thankfully Rece Davis provided some sanity to that broadcast. You can view it here.

Here’s the deal. Those plays DO happen often in a game — on dribble handoffs, pick and rolls, off-the-ball screens, and when bumping guys off their path in an offensive/defensive set. None of those are comparable to this situation. It’s intellectually dishonest to try and do so.

We can quibble all day over what is and is not a flagrant 1. Joel Berry II was whistled for one against Miami, simply because he raised his elbow above his neck when shooting a layup. It’s a rule that is all too often misapplied, and that was arguably the case this time. I don’t think Allen was trying to intentionally hurt Brooks, nor meant to cause him to fall.

Nonetheless, it was a stupid play and unquestionably a foul. The refs did not call a flagrant 1 because of past actions or reputations. Mike Eades and Teddy Valentine didn’t meet at halfcourt and say, “Well Grayson tripped a dude last year, so we should probably go over the top and also give UNC foul shots and the ball.”

Allen was charged with a flagrant 1, because he made a clear, intentional attempt to obstruct Garrison Brooks’ path, 10 feet behind the ball, outside the run of play, while Garrison was funning full speed down the court. As a result, Brooks went crashing to the floor.

Just like the Heels sent Grayson crashing out of the ACC tournament.