Sometimes - well, pretty much all the time really - there comes a point for a young team where it needs to get hit in the mouth and then get back up and fight back.
That point has not yet come for this young Duke team, or at least not emphatically enough.
The Blue Devils were again careless with the ball, making foolish passes against UNC in traffic and paying the consequences in a 91-87 loss.
The Tar Heels got a lot of easy points and to compound it, got uncharacteristically hot from outside, hitting 10-15 from behind the line. Kerwin Walton hit all four of his and Caleb Love, who dreamed of playing for Duke in high school before the Devils prioritized Jeremy Roach, hit 4-5.
Yet it was at the line where UNC, taking advantage of its size advantage, killed Duke. The Heels went to the line 22 times to Duke’s seven attempts and hit 13. Normally 59.1 percent would be a cause for concern but in this game it gave UNC a significant advantage (UNC shot much better from deep at 66.7 percent, by the way).
Notably, the big men - Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Day’Ron Sharpe - combined to go to the line 15 times, hitting seven. In a lot of games that would be fatal but not Saturday.
Even so, Duke fought its way back to be in the game in the closing seconds and was down just two when Wendell Moore drove to the basket, only to leave his feet and get caught in the air with no options.
He came down with the ball and was called for traveling with :08 left on the clock. The look of dismay on his face needed no translating. He was the hero last year in Chapel Hill and came close to tying the game with seconds left, only to wind up with Duke’s 16th and final turnover. Now he had made the final, terminal mistake in this one.
As we said, young teams have to learn to take a punch and hit back. You can coach them and teach them, but just like any other students, you have to apply the lessons. It’s been a strange and chaotic year, not just at Duke but across college basketball and you have to accept that. There’s nothing anyone can do to make this a typical year with a typical development schedule.
Ultimately though it comes down to guys getting sick of games like this.
It wasn’t all negative.
Mark Williams was effective inside as a defender and rebounder, with three blocks and eight boards. Henry Coleman had his best game of the year and showed that he could play on the biggest stage. Joey Baker, who has played as hard as anyone, finally got some offense going.
Despite the good points though, this one is going to sting. And it should. The question is how everyone reacts to it.
Player Of The Game vs. UNC
This poll is closed