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UNC Basketball: Savor It

Regardless of the vintage, there ain’t nothing finer

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

To their credit, whatever credit may be due, they never really gave up. To the Tar Heels’ credit, though, the team in the better blue gave them ample opportunities to do so. Jon Scheyer still had his team fouling, even down eight with under thirty seconds remaining in the game, as if there was a way to capture that lightning that Coach Smith had once called down on those Blue Devils in the days of old. All the fouls in the world couldn’t stop the Tar Heels, with twin forces of nature leading the way, boasting a pair of 20-point double-doubles and running roughshod over a hapless Duke defense. Duke sophomore Kyle Filipowski, for all his considerable talent and natural ability, was flummoxed by Bacot’s long-awaited resurgence. Some would say he was too small to stop the Bacot express en route to 25 points and 10 boards on 10-13 from the field. Ingram was similarly too big for the legion of overmatched Blue Devils assigned to guard him, in turn bombing from beyond the arc (a ridiculous 5-9) or cleaning the boards and tipping in Tar Heel misfires on his way to a tidy 21 points and 13 rebounds.

There’s one sentence that never gets old, no matter how many times I write it. Carolina beat Duke. The Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. Duke led for exactly 16 seconds in the first half, then never again. There was nothing fluky, no hellish intervention to save the Blue Devils, even with a tough-to-see hook-and-hold on RJ Davis in the waning moments of the game giving Duke two shots and the ball. Each and every time the Tar Heels got a bad bounce, they absorbed it; stealing the inbounds pass after that aforementioned phantom foul, or hitting a crushing three after a near-turnover.

Sometimes, shots are falling. Sometimes, game plans don’t really matter. Duke came into last night’s game obviously looking to take RJ Davis out of it. Not in the Gerald-Henderson-sanctioned-hit kinda way, but legally, with tenacious defense. In this, they succeeded — the superstar Tar Heel guard only notched four points in the first half. It was everywhere else that they failed, and that’s what made this particular iteration of this game so much fun to watch. Bacot, a volcano long thought dormant, erupted on an unsuspecting Blue Devils team, scoring the ball (again, Filipowski, hold 25 right quick) and creating for his teammates, tying (with Davis) for game-high five assists on the night.

It’s a beautiful thing, to beat Duke. Even better to do it in Chapel Hill — an easy walk to Franklin Street for the Tar Heel faithful, and the longest-possible 8-mile bus ride for the Blue Devils. This year’s team is special, and they prove it night on night; a fluky loss to Georgia Tech, only to bounce back and hang 93 on Duke in what ended up being a fairly straightforward outing.

We’re lucky to get to watch this team, and to have closets full of the correct blue. Some of our neighbors may not be so fortunate. There are “rivalries” out there that are too lopsided to avoid scare quotes, with all-time records like 118-50. This rivalry is special, this team is special, and the last time the Tar Heels beat Duke is always the most special until the next one.

On to Clemson. What a great day to be a Tar Heel.