Carolina basketball has been finding new and inventive ways of losing games all season, but tonight’s loss against Duke takes the cake for most brutal. The Blue Devils hadn’t led since it was 4-3 early on, but UNC made sure they had every chance to win by not being able to convert at the free throw line.
The numbers are ugly. Carolina made just 55% of their free throws, leaving 17 points at the line. I could really stop the recap there, because that’s where the game was lost.
Despite the fact that UNC shot 52% from the field, the missed free throws and another scoreless drought were the perfect recipe to send a team in deep foul trouble into overtime. Carolina fought back after Duke had the early momentum in the extra period, but some rather questionable calls all seemed to go Duke’s way. It was enough, coupled with more missed free throws, to give Duke the last-second win.
The Blue Devils were without Vernon Carey Jr. and Cassius Stanley, who both fouled out. Leaky Black and Armando Bacot fouled out late for UNC, but a host of others were in foul trouble. Still, the Heels let all the chances those Duke fouls gave them slip through their fingers by not being able to hit shots.
Cole Anthony led the way for UNC with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Garrison Brooks had 18 points, and Christian Keeling had probably his best performance as a Tar Heel with 13 points. UNC went to the locker room with a nine-point lead at halftime and had every opportunity to run away with it. They failed to do so and that is on them, despite the calls from referees down the stretch.
If we want to point fingers, Brooks missed all five of his free throws. He has been struggling something fierce at the line over the last few games. Bacot missed five of his free throws, and Platek missed three as well. Cole was the only Heel to find any consistent, sustained success there with nine of his ten being successful.
Duke scored 25 points off 18 Carolina turnovers. Tre Jones really took the game over late, and he was crucial in securing the win for Duke at the end of regulation and the end of overtime. He finished with 28 points for the Blue Devils.
I’m not sure it’s possible for it to get more painful than this. This has to be rock bottom. I guess nothing is ever guaranteed in life, but one would have to hope that there isn’t a lower point than this.
UNC will have to regroup in time to travel to Wake Forest on Tuesday.