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Duke Falls To UNC In Final Four, 81-77

A sad ending but what an intense, hard-fought game

North Carolina v Duke
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 02: Wendell Moore Jr. #0 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles the ball against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half of the game during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal at Caesars Superdome on April 02, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If you don’t have a rooting interest North Carolina’s 81-77 win over Duke was an instant classic.

But if you don’t have a Duke rooting interest, you’re probably not reading this.

Instead words like “devastating” probably come closer to what you’re thinking.

“Tonight was a battle,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “It was a game that the winner was going to be joyous and the loser was going to be in agony. That’s the type of game we expected. We would like to have been on the other side of it. But I’m proud of what my guys have done. They’ve been an amazing group for me, the youngest team I’ve coached. We had our chances tonight but they made a couple of more plays than we did.”

Paolo Banchero was more succinct.

“We gave it our all. It sucks that we came up short.”

It was a back-and-forth contest and several times Duke seemed on the verge of seizing control. But Armando Bacot’s rebounding and Caleb Love and R.J. Davis’ shooting kept the Tar Heels in it. A crushing 13-0 Carolina run early in the second half turned a 41-34 Duke lead into a 47-41 North Carolina lead. Duke came back and took several leads down the stretch, the last time 74-73 on a Wendell Moore triple, with 1:24 left.

But a Duke team that had made all the big plays down the stretch against Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas simple could not call up the magic one more time.

R.J. Davis put Carolina back on top 75-74 with two foul shots with a minute left. But Williams fouled out Bacot and went to the line with a chance to put Duke back on top.

He missed. Twice. Then Caleb Love hit a 3-pointer and then three foul shots while Duke could only answer with a Jeremy Roach layup and one of two from the line from Trevor Keels.

“We had our chances in the last couple of minutes,” Krzyzewski said. “You get a one-point lead and if you can get a stop—but they’re good. They really put a lot of pressure on you offensively.”

Duke did a lot of things well, including committing four turnovers and winning the bench battle 25-2. But Bacot’s 21 rebounds helped North Carolina to a 50-41 advantage on the boards and Duke shot a woeful 5 for 22 (23 percent) from beyond the arc and 12 for 20 (60 percent) from the line).

The Tar Heels, on the other hand, made 10 of 26 from 3-point range and 17 of 24 from the line. That’s 15 more points on 3s, five more from the line.

Sometimes it’s not that complicated. Make shots and you win. Miss shots and you lose.

Duke missed too many shots.

North Carolina led early 11-6. Paolo Banchero and Keels and Theo John off the bench led Duke back. Duke’s biggest first-half lead was six at 24-18. It was 34-34 when Jeremy Roach ended the half with an old-fashioned 3-point play, putting Duke up 37-34.

Mark Williams and Banchero scored inside to start the second half and Duke had the game’s biggest lead at 41-34.

Then it simply fell apart. Duke went more than three minutes without a point, missing five straight shots, with a turnover thrown into the mix.

On the other end of the court Bacot grabbed a Davis miss and Carolina found Love for a triple. Then Love hit another 3 then Brady Manek hit a 3 and Duke’s lead had disappeared.

Bacot grabbed five rebounds in that 13-0 run.

Keels stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer and for the final 15:43 neither team led by more than five points. But missed free throws by Duke, Bacot’s dominance on the glass and Duke’s inability to slow down Love spelled Duke’s demise.

Banchero led Duke with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Keels added 19 points off the bench. But Moore (4-14), A.J. Griffin (1-7) and Roach (2-11) were a woeful 7-32 from the field, 1 for 11 on 3s. And Williams was simply overwhelmed by Bacot inside, grabbing only four rebounds in a foul-plagued outing.

Love led everyone with 28 points, making 8 of 10 inside the arc, with Duke unable to keep him out of the lane and Williams unable to protect the rim.

Davis added 18, Manek 14..

We all know the sidebars, Mike Krzyzewski’s last game a loss to Duke’s biggest rival and that’s going to sting for a long, long time. Krzyzewski declined numerous opportunities to talk about the big picture following the game, preferring to concentrate on a team that was hurting big time.

Krzyzewski said his team was in tears in the locker room and that was good because that meant Duke had left it all out on the floor.

And next play will be a long time and it will Jon Scheyer’s play and he’ll make that play with a largely reconstituted roster of freshmen and almost certainly several transfers.

So credit where credit is due. Whatever Hubert Davis did to turn around this team after that Pittsburgh loss, he should patent it and retire from coaching.

Great game. Just not the outcome we wanted.

Poll

Player Of The Game vs. UNC

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Wendell Moore
    (39 votes)
  • 1%
    AJ Griffin
    (11 votes)
  • 44%
    Paolo Banchero
    (485 votes)
  • 2%
    Mark Williams
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    Jeremy Roach
    (16 votes)
  • 12%
    Theo John
    (135 votes)
  • 34%
    Trevor Keels
    (379 votes)
1096 votes total Vote Now