Tonight, UNC managed to do what they haven’t done since 1998: beat Duke in the ACC Tournament. The game was exciting, chaotic, loud, dramatic, and of course, fun as hell. The Barclays Center was the loudest I’ve heard it since arriving in Brooklyn. Both fan bases did their best to cheer their team to victory, with the expectedly strong Duke fanbase in attendance. Nevertheless, UNC survived, and they will play Virginia for the ACC Championship.
The game started out with a bit of role reversal for UNC. They came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, leading by as many as 13 in the first 8 minutes of the half. Duke couldn’t buy a basket, with Gary Trent Jr. being the only Duke player during that time to score a field goal. Yes, you read that correctly: Duke only had three points at the 12:16 minute mark, with one of those points coming from a free throw by Wendell Carter Jr.
As one would expect from any UNC - Duke game, the Blue Devils were unwilling to take the beating they were subjected to laying down. They went on a 9-0 run, mostly led by Trent, and kept things as close as possible despite UNC’s amped up defense. Fortunately, the Heels have been through this before and didn’t crumble during Duke’s run. Cameron Johnson closed out the half with a buzzer-beating layup to help the Heels maintain a 36-31 lead at the half.
With 52 seconds left in the first half, Grayson Allen managed to knock down Garrison Brooks with....his butt? It was truly one of the most bizarre things I’ve personally witnessed, as the referees called a flagrant 1 on the play. That is not to say Grayson didn’t deserve it, because as we all know he has a history of this type of thing. Getting a flagrant for showing off the results of your squats in the gym though? Definitely a new one.
During the second half, UNC managed to hold off Duke and extend their lead before Duke made things way too interesting in the closing minutes. They once again executed the full-court trap to try to speed UNC up into making mistakes, and for the most part the Heels held up well. In the closing minutes, however, things got sloppy. Theo lost the ball, Kenny grabbed a ball that would’ve been a backcourt violation and slipped, and shooters who were left way too open. Thankfully, the door slammed shut when Grayson Allen took an awful three-pointer, and then the Blue Devils had to foul Theo Pinson, who made two free throws to seal the win.
The most important player this game might not have been a starter for the first time since the start of the ACC Tournament. Garrison Brooks did an amazing job on Marvin Bagley III, locking him down off of the ball and frustrating the future first-round draft pick. Bagley managed to finish the game with 19 points and made a little over 50% of his shots, but the shots that he didn’t get to take were largely because he just couldn’t get open. Brooks also finished the game with 10 points and 4 rebounds, which was huge given the foul trouble Theo Pinson found himself in in the first half.
It was a great night to be a Tar Heel, and an even greater night to be a college basketball fan. Though, as is tradition, I’ll close this out by saying.....
Go to hell Duke.