After losing in the Dean Dome twice in a row to their most hated rival, UNC took down Duke 93-84 to gain a little separation in the ACC. One could argue that this is the sharpest that Carolina has looked on the offensive side of the ball all season, especially when you consider who the opponent was, but at worst it was an absolute clinic against a team that ranked a lot higher than them in the preseason.
There’s a lot to say about the Heels’ big win, so let’s go ahead and discuss five takeaways from tonight’s game.
Armando Bacot made a huge statement
Armando Bacot told the College Game Day analysts that he planned to give tonight’s game his all since it would be his last one against Duke in the Dean Dome. Not only did he keep his word, but he had one of his most impressive performances all season. He finished tonight’s game with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 36 minutes of action. His 25 points led the team as well as tied his season-high.
Bacot and Kyle Filipowski went after each other all night long, but it was Bacot that ended up winning the battle. Even when Bacot wasn’t able to score, he made some really impressive passes to find someone open on the perimeter. This was one of the most complete games we’ve seen from him since the beginning of the season, and hopefully this will carry over into the final leg of ACC play.
Harrison Ingram was the toughest player on the floor
There are some nights where I don’t believe that Harrison Ingram is from this planet, and that was most certainly the case tonight. He finished with season-high 21 points, 13 rebounds, and an assist. Once his first three-pointer of the night went in, it was apparent that it was going to be one of those nights for the Stanford transfer — he drilled five of his nine three-point attempts, which was the best that he has shot from deep all season.
Then there were all of the other things Ingram did — he led the team in steals with four, he was all over the floor diving for balls and flying down the court on fast breaks, and played with every ounce of energy he had in his body. With all due respect to everyone Hubert Davis brought in this season, Ingram has easily been the best player that has joined the program, and for him to step up the way he did against Duke will be remembered by Carolina fans for years to come.
Turnovers doomed the Blue Devils
Fun fact: Duke only led the game for 16 seconds, which is a rarity in this heated rivalry. A lot of that is due to the fact that the Blue Devils turned the ball over 11 times in the game, which led to 19 points off turnovers for the Tar Heels. The deepest cut was in the first half when their six turnovers turned into 10 points, and at the end of that night that essentially sealed their fate.
The funny thing is that if the Blue Devils found a way to take care of the ball, we probably would’ve seen a more traditional UNC/Duke game. Once the Tar Heels pulled out in front, Duke just couldn’t find a way to catch up no matter how hard they tried. It’s hard to imagine that we will see a repeat of this in Cameron Indoor Stadium in March, so hopefully the Heels don’t fall asleep behind the wheel when these two teams face off again.
Tyrese Proctor was a no-show
Prior to tonight’s game, it felt like there was a lot of talk about Tyrese Proctor trending upwards when it came to his play for the Blue Devils. After scoring in double digits five games in a row, Proctor left the Dean Dome with just two points, which is his second-lowest point total all season. He also picked up three fouls and spent some time on the bench during the final stretch of the game.
While Proctor essentially didn’t get off of the bus, Jared McCain had himself a night in his place. He finished the night with a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, which funny enough is his second-highest point total of the season. It’s interesting to me how much has been made of Proctor’s game to this point of the season and how little I’ve heard about McCain, but maybe I’m just not paying enough attention whenever Duke comes up. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen tweets like these that are…err…cringe and silly.
RJ Davis is a basketball player. Tyrese Proctor is a hooper.— DukeMuse (@DukeMuse) January 30, 2024
RJ Davis had 17 points tonight. I think it’s safe to say he’s a little more than a basketball player.
Carolina’s fast play was too much
Duke found out the hard way that traditional Carolina Basketball has returned to Chapel Hill in ways that I don’t think any of us expected. They are playing faster than any team I’ve seen in years, and a lot of that has to do with how disruptive they’ve been on defense. Whenever the Blue Devils scored, the Heels were already halfway down the floor. Someone got a steal, and before you could blink Carolina was at the rim. I’m pretty sure Duke’s legs started to feel it at some point in the first half, especially after there was no play stoppage for a weirdly long time before the 8-minute mark. Duke is a team that likes to run too, but tonight the Tar Heels were just too much.
UNC finished the game with 16 fast break points, which funny enough was only four more than the Blue Devils. The difference is that it felt like the Tar Heels just never stopped running, never stopped moving the ball, and never stopped attacking on defense. This is the kind of play that makes me think that this team could make it to the Final Four, and more relevant than that, it could be the difference between a win and a loss in the season finale game in Durham.
UNC is now 10-1 in the ACC (1st place), and are 18-4 for the season. Next up is Clemson this Tuesday in the Dean Smith Center.
Go Heels, and Go to Hell Duke.