ESPN will be showing this one a long, long time.
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It's not easy for a Duke-Carolina game to match the hype. But Mike Krzyzewski said Duke's 92-90 overtime win over North Carolina exceeded the hype and it's hard to argue the point.
It wasn't an aesthetic masterpiece. Too many missed foul shots, too many what-was-he-thinking-turnovers. But for drama and passion and intensity it was hard to top this game, equal parts heavyweight slugfest and marathon.
The arch-rivals came into Cameron headed in opposition directions. Duke had won five straight, eight of its last nine. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, had lost three of its last four.
It certainly started as if those trend lines would continue. Duke exploded out of the starting blocks, making four of its first five shots, jumping to leads of 9-2, 13-4, then 17-6. Carolina coach Roy Williams said his team was "brain dead" in the opening four minutes.
Carolina stabilized and closed to 22-16.
Duke was up 40-36, with about four minutes left in the half when Jahlil Okafor landed awkwardly after a missed shot. Cameron went silent as Okafor writhed in pain and visions of impending doom started dancing around more than a few worried minds.
Okafor got up after a few minutes, hobbled to the bench, hobbled to the locker room, hobbled back out and re-entered the contest three game minutes later and never again left the game.
Krzyzewski said he was shocked when Okafor asked to go back into the game.
Duke had an emotional reaction to Okafor and built the lead to 13, at 49-36 on Quinn Cook's fifth first-half 3-pointer.
The final two minutes of the half were a disaster for Duke. Some sloppy possessions and offensive rebounds by Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto and it was 49-42 at intermission.
Duke had missed a chance to deliver a knockout blow and almost paid a grievous price. The teams exchanged baskets for a few minutes into the second half and then the lid closed on the Duke basket. After taking a 53-44 lead on an Amile Jefferson lay-up, Duke missed six consecutive field goals, with some turnovers mixed in.
Carolina took its first lead at 54-53 and extended it to four on three occasions. Duke regained the advantage at 62-61 before Carolina surged again, a 16-5 run giving them a 77-67 lead, with 3:51 left.
Pretty much anything that could go wrong did go wrong during this stretch, bad turnovers, bad shots, bad rebounding and a couple of head-scratching calls from the officials. The freshmen looked like freshmen, all of them.
"We started thinking about the misses," Krzyzewski said " and they transitioned so well and they score. "
It looked like the four-point possession that gave Carolina that 10-point lead might have been the back-breaker. Nate Britt hit a lay-up and drew a foul. He missed the foul shot but Brice Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound and Britt scored 20 seconds later.
Cook said Krzyzewski told his team around this time that they were about to be a part of an amazing win.
Amazing about sums it up. "Then we hunkered down" Krzyzewski said. "Tyus really made some amazing plays for us and we got some stops. We had a great, great defensive exchange to end regulation."
Winslow started the comeback, with a 3-pointer that made it 77-70 and a dunk that made it 79-72.
A key sequence came just inside two minutes when Marcus Paige missed a lay-up and Kennedy Meeks fouled Winslow on the rebound.
Winslow missed both foul shots but Matt Jones somehow dug out the offensive rebound. Tyus Jones missed a 3 but Winslow grabbed another rebound and Ty Jones hit a lay-up that made it 79-74.
The teams exchanged turnovers before Nate Britt missed the first end of the bonus. Ty Jones grabbed the rebound, drew a foul and knocked down the freebies.
Brice Johnson gave Carolina some breathing room with two foul shots after a tough foul call on Winslow. But Ty Jones got an old-fashioned 3-point play, Johnson missed another one-and-one and Ty Jones tied the game with 27 seconds left on a contested lay-up. Cook hounded Paige into a miss and we were in overtime and Cameron was in full crazy mode.
Still, by any rational standard, overtime was the last thing Duke needed. Only six Blue Devils saw action in the second half, while the deeper Tar Heels substituted in waves.
Krzyzewski gave the crowd, his assistants and his players credit. "Our guys are in real good shape. I think playing at home helped. . . . Our sixth man really helped give us energy. Then you kind of forget about being tired. My staff did a good job of saying 'forget about tired' and our guys said 'forget about tired. Let's go. ' "
Winslow agreed. "We're in great shape. We're strong. But it's all mental. When you're out there, you can't think about being tired."
Duke dominated much of the overtime after falling behind early by three but kept throwing life lines to the Tar Heels by missing six overtime foul shots. Perhaps fatigue was a factor. Cook, the ACC's leading foul shooter going into the game, missed two of four foul shots.
Then again, he was in his 45th minute when he missed them. That's right, Cook never took a seat.
Carolina was down three with a few seconds left. As with Florida State last week, Krzyzewski refused to take his chances with a 3-point shot. Nate Britt was fouled, made the first and missed the second on purpose. Winslow grabbed the rebound and the clock struck midnight for Carolina's spirited upset bid.
Cook and Ty Jones led Duke with 22 points each. Krzyzewski gave special praise for Jones. "He's good. So you start out with that. One of the reasons we waited three years to get him, is I thought he had special qualities, not just special talent. It shows up in big games, in big moments."
Then there's Cook, who helped hold Paige to five points on 2-11 shooting. " I watch a lot of film on him," Cook said of Paige. " He's one of my favorite players. It's a great challenge and my teammates helped me a lot."
Winslow overcame a rough stretch early in the second half to end with 16 points. "You've got to stay confident, believe the next shot will go in, stay positive and have your brother's back. We stuck together, kept fighting, always believed. We always believed we would win the game. "
Despite playing on a sprained ankle, Okafor ended with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. He missed all six of his foul shots. Okafor has scored in double figures in all 26 of Duke's games.
Krzyzewski said he thinks Okafor can play against Clemson Saturday but Duke will still need to evaluate him to be sure.
Amile Jefferson added 13 points, as all of Duke's starters scored in double figures. Duke went 16 for 31 from the line but made 10 of 16 3-pointers, while Carolina hit only 2 of 10.
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