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The Real Hurt Locker - Duke 82, Voldemort 50

Remember that ESPN commercial where Evander Holyfield is walking through the studio saying, "Charlie.  Charlie, come out and get your whooping!" And the camera shows us that Charlie Steiner, is cowering under a desk.

That was pretty much UNC on Duke's Senior Night.

What happened in Cameron Saturday night is what happens when a team can't take care of the ball, can't hit three point shots, can't hit free throws, and will not defend.

It wouldn't have surprised us in years past to say something like that about Florida State maybe, or Clemson from time to time.  It's really rather jarring to say it about UNC.

How bad was it?  Try this: UNC had one more made shot (16) than turnovers (15).  And 10 of those were in the first half. And of those, only three were by someone other than Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller, or John Henson.

Roy Williams pretty much nailed it after the game, saying that "[e]arly in the game, we didn’t want to give them open three’s, then they make three of them in the first three minutes of the game. We had 15 turnovers that led to 27 points; that’s been a problem for us all year and it was again tonight. Their defense was stronger than our offense. Their defense was the aggressor. Their defense was the actor and our offense reacted to what they did. They basically dominated that end of the floor with their defense. On the offense end, they made three’s, and when they missed, they got a rebound, kicked it out and made another three. It was not very pleasant for us to say the least."

We get Duke; we follow Duke pretty closely.  But what's happened to UNC?  It is to us still hard to understand because there is a lot of talent there.  It's not like last year, certainly, but there's as much or more talent in Chapel Hill than there is in College Park, or Blacksburg, or Clemson.  Come on.

Toss out the injuries for now, although Leslie McDonald sat out this one with a relatively minor injury.

UNC still had three solid big men in Thompson, Zeller, and John Henson, and at the least adequate wing play from Marcus Ginyard and Dexter Strickland.  If you consider Larry Drew II and William Graves the bigger problems, okay, fine, but they're not untalented players.

So the question is: why can't they get it together?  Why can't they at the very least play defense like their lives depended on it?

Even after you make allowances for injuries, the answer has to come down, primarily, to coaching.  Why is it that Zeller would rather shoot from the foul line than bang inside? Why can't someone persuade Drew to not make pointless, random forays into the lane?  Why isn't William Graves playing to his strengths?  As big and strong as he is, why isn't Thompson more of a factor inside?  How can they keep just tossing the ball to no one?

You can cut Strickland and Wear some slack as freshmen, and mostly exempt Henson from this discussion as he showed more heart and passion than the rest of his teammates, but otherwise, what the hell?  How did Williams lose this group?

After the game, they apparently couldn't figure it out.  Ginyard said "[e]veryone single one of them looked like they really wanted to get after it, as they should have. For us to not want to get at it right back is just tough to explain."

Drew said "[w]e didn't expect them to lay down. It's frustrating, it's embarrassing. I really don't know what else to say."

For Duke, it was a magnificent performance.  They defended all over the court, they rebounded, they did what UNC declined to do: they fought.  Kyle Singler was superb, Jon Scheyer shot poorly but was very solid overall, particularly with a 7-0 T/O ratio.  Nolan Smith found it fairly easy to get inside the defense and made them pay.

Lance Thomas did his usual number defensively although he fouled out.  But he still took it to the Heels.  And then there's Brian Zoubek.

We are probably the biggest Zoubek proponents outside the program and have been for a couple of years.  We saw past the awkwardness and the injuries and saw a big man with good instincts and great hands.  So we're not surprised to see him with a nifty jump hook and bagging double digit rebounds on a regular basis.  We're not even surprised to see the steals and the open court plays.

But even we were surprised by the massive - and that's the only word for it - the massive stuff Zoubek put on Deon Thompson.  We've seen him block shots, but can't ever recall him running someone down from behind to do it.  That requires that one reassess his footspeed.  Apparently it has improved.  It's too bad he can't stick around for one more season; we'd love to see where he could take his game.

Andre Dawkins continued his late season renaissance with solid minutes off the bench, although he could use to move more without the ball, and both Plumlees had their moments and didn't back down at all to UNC's big men, though at this point, there's no particular reason to do so.

So the Devils secured a share of the regular season title and the #1 seed for the ACC Tournament, that March event about which Roy Williams has had so many sharp comments to make over the years.  Ironically, it is now his only path to the tournament: win four straight games and the Heels go.  Fall short and that's that.

Although it was a smashing victory for Duke, on another level it was somewhat sad.  We actually found ourselves thinking, wow, we sure hope Dean Smith isn't watching this one.