Pregame today was loud and boisterous, with the tenting crowd in
early, and Carolina in the house. The UNC players were taunted by the
Crazies from the moment that they stepped onto the floor, with chants like,
"Gone to Hell, Carolina, Gone to Hell", "N I T", and "Joey, Joey" (to the
tune of "Darryl, Darryl"). Ed Cota was a specific target, as hundreds of
mug shots had been printed up and distributed amongst the crowd. The grad
students (who were really on their game today - more on that later) even had
one blown up to poster size, and they held it up for the entire shoot
around, right under the Carolina basket. Chants of "Guilty, guilty" and
"Go to jail, Ed Cota, go to jail" rained down on the UNC point guard. The
crowd did take time out to cheer for each Blue Devil as they made their way
out for warm-ups, saving the loudest of cheers for Chris Carrawell, who came
out very late into pre-game. He was hailed as he walked onto the court, and
then the crowd took up chants of "C-well, C-well", "Thank you C-Well", and,
"Player of the Year". There were also numerous signs dedicated to our
senior, such as "Give 'em Hell, C-well", and "All Because of Carrawell". A
few minutes were also spared for James White, a junior recruit in town for
the game. The crowd serenaded him with chants of, "James White", and "We
want James", but he did not react noticeably.
The pregame festivities continued with the introduction of the
seniors. Four senior managers were congratulated, and then Chris was
brought to center court, as the lights were dimmed for dramatic effect. I
couldn't hear any of the statistics and commendations that the announcer was
reading off, because the crowd was much too loud. C-well drank it all in,
waving to the crowd, and just kind of staring in awe. He then trotted over
to the sidelines and brought his mother out to center court to share in the
applause. She really seemed moved by all of the support for her son.
They turned together to face each side of the stadium and wave, which was
cool. The team finally joined them all at half court, and the game was
ready to begin.
The beginning of the game was very sloppy, as both teams missed
some wide-open shots. Duke was the less sloppy of the two though, and as a
result we jumped out to an 8-0 lead. Carolina settled down after a
timeout, and slowly chipped away at the lead. They had cut it to three,
and the score was 13-10 Duke, when the whole game changed. As Shane Battier
was scoring to make it 15-10 Duke, Ed Cota ran directly into Jason Capel on
the other side of the court. Ed went down hard, and left the game bleeding
from above his left eye. UNC replaced him at the point with Terrence
Newby, whom the crowd greeted with a chant of, "Oh no, not Newby". The
crowd was right, and Duke proceeded to mercilessly press the back-up point
guard. On one memorable sequence, UNC had a shot blocked, and Jason stole
the ball and took it down for a lay-up. He then stole the inbounds pass and
layed it in again, and then Battier stole the next inbound pass and rifled
the ball to a wide-open Carrawell, who finished with a two-handed dunk. The
Crazies kept getting louder and louder with each steal, and Duke had a lead
that they would not give back.
When Cota returned to the game, nearly eight minutes later, he
walked into the stadium, looked up at the scoreboard, and did a double take.
Duke was up by eighteen at the time, which certainly must have shocked the
senior point guard. Cota did his best to lead UNC back into the game, but
they never could muster a big enough run to really make it interesting.
Duke played a solid game in the first half, only turning the ball over
around five times. Matt Christensen played especially well, on the
defensive and offensive ends, which helped the Blue Devils have their best
half of rebounding this year.
The graduate students did a phenomenal job of distracting the Tar
Heels on free throws. They twirled around with their mug shots of Cota
when he was on the line, and chanted, "Guilty, Guilty". They all broke out
mouthpieces and starting hopping around like nuts when Lang was on the line.
They also brought a sign that read "KD Lang" for the UNC power forward.
They even were coordinated enough to hoist one student, brandishing varying
signs, up in the air, cheerleader style, which was a real distraction. In
the second half, about ten guys in the front donned judges' robes every time
Ed Cota or Terrence Newby fouled someone, and chanted, "Guilty, guilty".
All in all, it was a great effort by the grad students.
The second half featured lots of mini-runs by UNC, but each time a
different Duke player would be there to silence them with a big play.
Battier was phenomenal, hitting for thirty points in the game, including an
impossibly deep three pointer from the top of the key that really hurt
Carolina. James and Carrawell also had strong nights from the floor - it
really was a game dominated by the Duke upperclassmen. The crowd
continually taunted the Tar Heels, getting on Jason Capel with chants of,
"You choose poorly", and "Jeff is better". His brother, in attendance,
really appreciated that last one.
The Tar Heels did have their moments though - as they shot
ridiculously well in the second half, I think over seventy percent. Ed
Cota had one memorable pass to Haywood, a two-handed, no look over the back
touch pass while flying through the lane. Sounds impossible; you really had
to see it to appreciate the skill involved. Joseph Forte, despite the
Crazies' best efforts, was also on his game. Neither James nor Carrawell
could really contain the freshman, and he was the focal point of UNC's
offense for most of the half; I believe he finished with more than twenty
Forte hit the shot that finally cut the Duke lead to single digits, but on
the ensuing possession, Nate James answered with a falling-down
three-pointer from the baseline over Jason Capel that effectively ended the
game for the Tar Heels. Carrawell had one last shining moment in Cameron,
as he stripped the ball and went the length of the court for a two handed
slam dunk. With about thirty seconds to go in the game, Bill Guthridge made
a very classy move, bringing in the "blue" team - in effect, calling off the
dogs. That allowed Coach K to substitute for Chris Carrawell, and give him
the hero's farewell that he deserved. Chris hugged all the guys
individually as he walked off to a rousing ovation. He then embraced Coach
K on the sidelines, and shook hands with the rest of the team, as the crowd
continued to cheer and hail the departing senior. Duke then brought in our
own bench team, and the game was over.
This wasn't one of the classic Duke Carolina games, but a win over
Carolina is nothing to snub your nose at. Chris had a fitting send-off, as
Duke won in workmanlike fashion. We had without a doubt our strongest
rebounding effort of the season, especially on the offensive glass, and
continually out-worked and out-hustled the Tar Heels. Had Ed Cota not gone
down early, things might have been a bit more nerve-wracking, but you have
to give Duke credit for capitalizing on the opportunity presented to them.
The crowd was excellent - witty and loud, always harassing the Carolina
players. You definitely got the feeling that the Crazies would have been
even crazier, had the need arisen. Best of luck to this Duke team in the
post-season, it should be a wonderful and exciting ride.