The North Carolina Tar Heels took a major blow in their January 14 drubbing against Florida State. A month later, the buzzer beater from Austin Rivers was heartbreaking. Seven consecutive wins later and a convincing 88-70 regular season ending win over Duke, Roy Williams and his guys are in a very good place.
Kendall Marshall continued his excellent form and the habit of breaking out against big rivals while playing away from home. He finished with 20 points and 10 assists, two weeks after an impressive performance against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, with another double double, 22 points and 13 assists.
The entire UNC starting lineup finished in double figures, with Tyler Zeller making his last trip to Durham finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. John Henson finished with a double-double as well, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 boards. UNC won the rebounding battle 42-22, mostly thanks to the fact that Duke, built as usual on their perimeter shooting, couldn’t hit anything.
It was an Austin Rivers shot that dramatically won the game for Duke last time, but Rivers (15 points) was out of sync, like the entire Duke team, with their outside shooting. Rivers finished with 1-6 from the outside, Duke finished with 6-21. Without any interior game, having such an off day against a better team (evidently) just wasn’t enough.
Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski – When you base, like we do, a lot of our offense on 3-point shooting … some will say, ‘Don’t.’ That’s who we are, man. And if we’re not hitting them, we have a much greater chance to lose.
Roy Williams, UNC Head coach – My team’s had some bounce-back to them all year long. We go down to Florida State and lose by 3 million and everybody’s jumping off the bandwagon … but our team kept playing. We lose to Duke and everybody’s got a great opinion of how stupid we are. My team kept playing.
Unlike their first meeting of the season, the Tar Heels didn’t lose a big lead, which also happened to them in their one point loss to Kentucky. Florida State and UNLV? Not something characteristic of this team, that’s been up and down all year with its agression levels. As some of the players described after the 18 point win over Duke, their biggest at Durham since 1989, they simply played ‘angry’.