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Duke Falls To UNC In Coach K’s Final Home Game

That wasn’t the ending we were hoping for.

North Carolina v Duke
DURHAM, NC - MARCH 05: Theo John #12 of the Duke Blue Devils blocks a shot by Brady Manek #45 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

After all the hype, after all the hoopla, one part pilgrimage, one part farewell, maybe a little bit spectacle, Duke and North Carolina finally got down to business Saturday night.

And then the unthinkable happened. Mike Krzyzewski lost his last game in Cameron. The final was 94-81.

It was a lot closer than the final score suggests. Indeed Duke dominated the middle part of the game and seemed on the verge of delivering a knockout blow several times.

But as Paolo Banchero said “they wouldn’t go away.”

It would be disingenuous and unfair to deny North Carolina full credit for the win. They were sharp, focused and well-prepared. They got hit in the figurative mouth and stuck to the plan.

“They didn’t play well against us the first time,” Krzyzewski said. “Their program, like ours, is built on a lot of pride. They showed that today in coming here and playing a solid 40 minutes against us. They were terrific.”

But it would be equally disingenuous to deny that Duke’s youngsters were under incredible pressure to make sure Krzyzewski went out a Cameron winner. Several times Krzyzewski said something along the lines of “I’m glad it is over,” referring to the build-up of the game and he’s not 19 years old. Just look at the opening play. Mark Williams was so pumped up that he controlled the opening tip 50 feet away, out of bounds.

The nerves continued early. Duke fell behind 9-2 and 11-4.

But then Duke started to play like the team we’ve seen most of the season. Banchero and Mark Williams started dominating inside and Duke took its first lead, at 16-15. Carolina regained the lead and was up 28-23 when Duke went on a 14-0 run to take a nine-point lead with 3:52 left in the first half.

But Duke failed to keep its foot on the gas. Banchero missed the first end of a one-and-one. With the score 37-30, Keels did the same. Duke was on the wrong end of a controversial charge-block call, one that could have sent Armando Bacot to the bench with three fouls. Instead Williams was called for the foul and Caleb Love hit a 3-pointer. R.J. Davis closed the half with another triple even though Duke had two fouls to give.

That never should have happened.

Duke still led 41-39 but it felt like Duke could have, maybe should have taken a 10-12 point lead into the locker room.

Still, Duke seemed to stabilize coming out of the locker room and had seven-point leads at 52-45, 54-47 and 56-49.

Then the wheels came off.

Duke certainly scored enough points to win. But down the stretch Duke simply could not get stops. Whenever Carolina needed a basket, Carolina got a basket.

“Their guards, we couldn’t keep them in front of us.” Krzyzewski said. “They’re a really good team and they played better than us.”

The Tar Heels scored 45 points in the final 12:33. Some of that came from foul shots in the final minutes; they were eight for eight from the line in the final 44 seconds.

But they also shot lights out in the second half, 59 percent from the field, 57 percent (4-7) on 3s and turned it over a miserly one time in the second half.

Duke had its last lead at 61-59. But Duke turned it over on consecutive possessions, lost the lead and never got it back after a 16-5 Carolina run.

Duke closed to 65-63 but gave up a wide-open Brady Manek 3-pointer. Duke closed to 70-69 but gave up a wide-open Davis 3-pointer. Duke closed to 73-71 but Leaky Black scored inside.

Could. Not. Get. Stops.

“I think we had some key miscommunications on defense,” Banchero said. “That gave them some threes, some easy buckets.”

Before the post-game and all the honors and scholarships and speeches, a clearly upset Mike Krzyzewski took the microphone and called the game “unacceptable” and then added “the season isn’t over.”

Duke had four players in double figures, led by Banchero with 23. Williams had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Jeremy Roach 15 points and Trevor Keels 12. Moore had seven assists.

But Carolina had four players with 20 or more points, Bacot 23, Manley 20 (11 rebounds), Love 22 and Davis 21.

Next play. Normally Duke would draw on a reservoir of players with post-game experience. But Duke has played no NCAA Tournament games and two ACC Tournament games since Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett roamed the Cameron floor in 2019.

Moore said Duke has lots of basketball ahead of it. “Our motivation is at an all-time high. We have bigger goals ahead of us. For me I’m excited. I’ve been here three years and haven’t played a [NCAA] Tournament game. I’m extremely excited for that.”

Winning on Senior Day isn’t a given, not even for a program as storied as Duke’s. Grant Hill, Shane Battier, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams all lost on Senior Day. Duke defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2016 and this year and lost the rematch at Cameron.

But losing on Senior Day also doesn’t signal the end of the season. Duke won the 2001 NCAA title and advanced to the title game in 1994 after losing on Senior Day.

So more basketball to be played, a lot more if Duke learns the lessons Krzyzewski said they need to learn from Saturday night.

The biggest of which? “We weren’t hungry tonight.”

Krzyzewski said it wasn’t totally unexpected.

“I was worried about a few things going into the game,” he acknowledged. “We had just played the three road games in six days and we won the ACC regular season. When you win, you don’t just win a game, it’s the culmination of a number of games. So, it’s an accomplishment. But then you have this game, which is like its own entity. And we were never able to move to that level. And that’s on me. We have to learn from losing.”


Player Of The Game vs. UNC

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Wendell Moore
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    AJ Griffin
    (6 votes)
  • 36%
    Paolo Banchero
    (111 votes)
  • 26%
    Mark Williams
    (81 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Keels
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    Theo John
    (37 votes)
  • 20%
    Jeremy Roach
    (64 votes)
307 votes total Vote Now