We went over to Cameron early Saturday to soak up some atmosphere and gauge
the mood.Â The mood was evident pretty early, as we could hear the crowd
outside Cameron from the farthest parking lot on Wannamaker - the unpaved one.
We hooked up with James and cruised around Kville a bit, catching up to
TieGuy, Tent 84, and Aaron Hodges, among others. Mike Gminski was hanging out,
and a guy who looked uncannily like that 90210 guy was there, too.Â The
hairpainting was going on everywhere, and we realized that in one way, Cameron
and the Dean Dome are very much alike: in both arenas, the Blue Hairs have the
Inside Cameron the atmosphere was pretty near euphoric.Â The crowd was
packed in tight, and when senior intros commenced, starting with the managers,
the passion level went up. Before Chris Carrawell was called, the lights went
down, and just like in the old days, in an era most fans today have no knowledge
of, the lights went down and spotlights illuminated center court, and Cwell
trotted out and soaked in the applause, then went back to the bench and brought
his mom out, too, and they turned to all four corners of the ancient arena and
waved at each.Â It's hard to describe the outpouring.Â Every year
seniors get a loving sendoff - Hurley's was very memorable, and so was Gene
Banks', and of course Grant's senior moment was amazing, though the game was a
letdown, and Trajan is one of the most respected players in Duke history, and
his moment last year was impressive, to say the least.
None were as emotional as today's, in our opinion.Â Carrawell is a
unique figure in Duke history, a guy who fought his way out of a situation which
either kills or cripples or chronically depresses most people who have to deal
with it.Â Not Cwell.Â You have to have imagination and guts to fight
yourself out of the situation he was in, and he has it - and so does his mom,
This was all before the game started, of course.Â The first two minutes
or so were a slugfest, with either nerves or tough defense dictating the game,
or both.Â But then Duke shot out to an 8-0 lead before UNC picked it up and
crept back into it, though they never took the lead.
Then Cota got his face opened, and the game, for all intents and purposes,
was over.Â One quick sequence told the tale: Williams went in for a layup
on a break, then stole the ball, and hit another layup. Then Duke stole the ball
again and Battier passed off for another layup.
That was pretty much itÂ - the rest of the game was Duke pushing the
lead out to the 15-20 point range, and UNC struggling to get it closer to 12
(they got it to 9 at one point). Every time they cut it down, Duke ran it back
out. We heard a UNC fan saying after the game that his team shot 69% in the
second half and still couldn't get it done.Â That is pretty amazing when
you think about it, because Duke was playing some pretty good defense.
As always in a Duke-UNC game, there are memorable plays and moments.Â In
this one, we saw a few really dumb plays - Lang's drive and charge being perhaps
the dumbest. Everone in the gym knew he was going to run over Boozer, and Boozer
just waited for it to happen.
In more positive terms (at least for Duke fans), there were a number of
wonderful plays - first of all that previously mentioned sequence. Secondly,
Boozer had a sensational block late in the game. Third, Nate James hit a falling
down, falling out of bounds 3 that made it clear that no matter what, UNC wasn't
going to come back this time. Fourth, try Cwell's breakaway dunk at the end.
Watching these teams this year is really interesting because UNC, though they
are clearly not what they once were, still possess an offensive genius (you can
take that as a pun if you must) in Ed Cota. Among the great plays of this game,
and one of the candidates for play of the day, was his spectacular, no-look,
over his shoulders relay to Haywood.Â You can't fake that kind of genius
for passing.Â It was remarkable.Â Cota makes his teammates much more
deadly, though they are not as gifted as his earlier targets, Jamison and
Carter.Â When you have a guy who passes like that, even a stiff like Serge
Zwikker is deadly.Â
And no matter what anyone says, Brendan Haywood is still 7 feet tall and big
as a house.Â He had several dunks today, but he also tried to launch two
medium distance jumpers, one from the right side of the lane, about 12 feet out
in the second half, and he walked, and the other in the first, where he turned,
about 10 feet from the basket, and threw up a shot which came down like a
wounded duck - hard, ugly, and dying fast.
Between those two considerable forces, they have Kris Lang, who will be an
excellent player once he gets extended rest and repetitions, Jason Capel, who
would have been as good as Matt Doherty was were his teammates at the same level
(he's a complimentary player, not a star, but on this team he has to do too
much), and the wondrous Joseph Forte, who is truly gifted.
Yet consider this:Â out of 55 total shots, Forte took 20. Capel took 10,
Haywood took 7, Lang and Cota took 5, and Peppers took four. Newby took 3.
In UNC's system, it's bizarre for a freshman to account for that much of the
offense. Traditionally, it would be built from inside-out, with Haywood and Lang
punishing the inside, and then opening things up for Forte. Instead, Forte is
forced to freelance. and to take over far more of the offense in that system
than a freshman is supposed to.
So why is it that with two quality big guys and a master passer, UNC is
relying on Forte? We're sure other ACC coaches understand this, and we have our
suspicions, but we're hardly experts.
The defense is a different issue. Before the season, Gut promised to go back
to traditional UNC pressures and traps and the like, but it quickly became clear
that this team wouldn't be able to maintain it physically and in fact has
periodic gaps in their concentration on both ends.Â For instance at the
end, when Duke was just running out the clock, Capel came out to press Williams,
and he hoped, trap him in the top left corner, next to a lucky reporter.Â
However, his teammate - we think Forte - didn't join him. Capel had to turn and
wave the kid to join him in pressing, and it took him a few seconds to
understand what was being asked of him.Â At that point he did, but by then
precious time had gone off, and of course Jason knew what was coming and so had
made other arrangements.
For Duke, though they won, there are other concerns.Â Though Battier has
responded magnificently in recent games,Â overall Duke shot well under 50%,
and UNC, despite their problems, certainly defended the inside well, blocking a
number of shots and forcing Duke to rely on outside shooting for the most part,
which, fortunately, worked.
However, today, none of it mattered.Â Duke overcame their weaknesses,
and UNC didn't.Â As a result, Duke has now gone 46-2 in the ACC for the
last 3 seasons, and prospects are good for that level of success, more or less,
to continue.Â Cwell will be missed, of course, and terribly, but Dunleavy
will be a major force, and Sweet can pick up a lot of the dirty work, and
Horvath and Sanders should be bulked up (along with Dunleavy), and then there's
Duhon.Â So while they'll lose one of Duke's all time great players, and an
all-time favorite, their depth should be dramatically improved.
There are a lot of things to say about this game, but one we don't want to
overlook was Matt Christensen's brilliant play at the end of the first half. He
After the game, Cwell came back out and spoke, as seniors always do at Duke
on senior day, talking about how lucky he was, and how much he appreciated all
that had happened to him.Â He closed by saying that while last year Trajan
had asked the Crazies to send him out with a Go To Hell Carolina chant, he
couldn't say that because his mom was there, but he figured that everyone knew
the cheer, and they could do it anyway. They obliged him, and he walked back
through the crowd, which wanted him to linger, and wanted to touch him, to keep
some small part of him in Cameron, and he, and his teammates, walked off amid
cheers for the winningest player in ACC competition in history.
We'll not see his like again anytime soon, so thank you, Cwell. You've been
magnificent, and watching you grow up has been an amazing experience for Duke
fans. We'll be watching you in the NBA and beyond.
After the game, we walked around to the bus, where we saw Bill Guthridge,
alone in the front seat, staring out over Wade. The players body language, to
us, was depressed - one sat with his back to the window, his hands wrapped
around his head, another looked down and didn't raise his head at all. Only
Forte actually looked out the window, waving at someone he saw.Â Jason
Capel was the last Tar Heel on the bus, and as soon as he got on, the bus pulled
away into the darkening evening to return to an equally depressed Chapel Hill.
UNC may well win the rematch, if both teams make it that far, but that would just mean that in the last six
games Duke leads 5-1, and in fact might do Duke a favor, giving them an extra
day of rest to get ready for the NCAAs.
Notes - several times the Crazies chanted "Jeff was better" at
Jason Capel...at one point, Jeff, who was sitting in the Duke section behind the
bench/scoreboard, egged them on...the Capels are a combined 1-14 in the rivalry
now, with Jeff winning once, so maybe the Crazies have a point...when Cota
fouled, they chanted "guilty" at him and waved pictures of an apparent
mugshot when he went to the line...he missed, badly...the Crazies, all things
considered, put on one of the best performances we've seen in years and years
and years....magnificent...there's an excellent chance these teams will meet in
the semis of the ACC...Dunleavy did dress but of course didn't play...Coach K
stopped on the way in and put his arm around Phil Ford and spoke to him
privately and warmly...we thought at first it might be about his ongoing
struggle, but later we learned that Ford is having serious hip pain, much like
Coach K did, and that may well have been what they were discussing...former
Dukies spotted in the crowd - Phil Henderson, Capel, Brickey, Henderson, G-man,
Jack Marin, Steve Gray...We haven't said nearly enough about the Feb-March play of Shane Battier...he has been absolutely magnficent..one of the great stretches of ball in Duke history...also, for Gut to put in his scrubs so that C-well could come out...that is something all Duke fans should appreciate...
TieGuy On The Game
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.