There was a lot of downplaying this game because of both teams’ struggles to this point this season. Fortunately, UNC vs Duke always seems to find a way to live up to the billing, and today’s game wasn’t an exception. The game was close right down to the wire and the young Tar Heels found a way to scrape out a tough game at Cameron, winning it 91-87.
Freshman point guard Caleb Love had the best game of his young career so far, scoring 25 points on the back of four three-pointers and seven assists. He was aggressive attacking the basket and also accurate from deep, proving to be a lethal combination for the Blue Devils. Armando Bacot also had a bounce back game after laying a real egg against Clemson that prompted some roasting from his own mother. The sophomore was second on the team in scoring with 16 points and six rebounds.
Six Tar Heels finished the game in double figures with Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Kerwin Walton all chipping in 12 points each. Day’Ron Sharpe finished with 11 points. After shooting 52% from the field in the first half, the Heels bested that mark with a 55% second half. They made 10 of their 15 three-point attempts and led for nearly the entire game.
Both teams turned the ball over freely with UNC giving it away 16 times and Duke doing so 15 times. Each team benefitted from the other teams’ carelessness, but UNC was able to score 28 of their points directly off Duke miscues. Free throws have been a point of contention for Carolina all season, and it was not any different tonight. Down the stretch it looked as though the inability to consistently hit free throws might be their undoing, but they managed to get some crucial free throws from Black in the waning seconds that ultimately put the game away.
Love has endured a lot of criticism this year, but he has certainly seemed like a different player as of late. He is looking more and more like the player we thought we’d see at the beginning of the season, which has been a huge boost to this team at the exact right time. Carolina will need him if they are to play well enough to get into the NCAA tournament and make any kind of noise there.
Despite the fact that it was close and terrifying at times even though it seemed as though the Heels should be running away with the game, this was an important win. No, they didn’t go into Cameron Indoor with all of the students yelling in their face, but it’s another win to build momentum off of, and momentum has definitely been swinging their way over the last month.
UNC will be back in action on Monday when they welcome Miami to Chapel Hill.