North Carolina blew it in a spectacular way on Wednesday night. Leading for a majority of the way over the Duke Blue Devils, the Tar Heels couldn’t help but throw the game away late in the second half of another classic match up. Before anyone knew it, Duke stunned the capacity crowd with a 74-73 victory.
Some will want to put the loss on a lack of timeout on the final possession. However, the Tar Heels did the right thing by playing it out. Where they failed was in execution. Therefore, don’t blame Roy Williams for the last play.
Coming into the game, there was one way the Blue Devils could pull off the upset. If the Tar Heels were willing to take too many 3-pointers, wasted possessions could conceivably keep Duke in the game. So North Carolina decided to take 13 3-pointers in a game, while making only one attempt. The Tar Heels shot 7.7 percent from downtown in a game they lost by one point.
Overall, Marcus Paige was 2-10 from the field, and finished the game 0-6 from 3-point range. Those are wasted possessions. Paige used to be a player that lived in the paint, but he’s been out of sorts all season. Maybe, the big rivalry game was the turning point for the year. Instead, he was a no-show offensively.
The front court had no problem against Duke’s lack of depth. Brice Johnson was the star of the show until he fell off the map in the second half. Finishing with 29 points and 19 rebounds. Johnson was a non factor down the stretch. Maybe he was tired. Maybe the Tar Heels haven’t figured out how to win big games yet.
If Paige was bad, Joel Berry was worst from the field. He only made 2-12 shots from the field. In addition, Berry only dished out one assist. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they were willing to settle for jump shots.
Defensively, North Carolina played well enough to win. They had seven blocks and out rebounded Duke 44-29. They held Grayson Allen to one 3-point make, while keeping Duke below their 3-point average at 36 percent. Yet, they were unable to contain Allen and Brandon Ingram off the dribble.
The Blue Devils decided to run heavy isolation plays, resulting in only seven assists for the night. However, they only coughed up six turnovers. Ingram’s slow start did not deter his strong second half effort. They combined for 43 points and 17 rebounds in the win.
With two other top five teams losing last night, both teams are still in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Duke is also one game out of first place in the ACC Standings, while North Carolina is tied with the Miami Hurricanes.