North Carolina spoiled Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday with a 94-81 victory over the No. 4 Blue Devils. That win could prove big for Tar Heels on Selection Sunday, as North Carolina is now in the anticipated NCAA championship field, According to CBS Sports Archeology Expert Jerry Palm.
Duke’s new signing Paulo Panchero dominated the first half, scoring 15 points to lead the Blue Devils up to nine points. But the late increase, capped by a 3-pointer from RJ Davis with just over a second, means North Carolina is two controllable points behind in the first half.
In the second inning, Duke drove up to seven, but a few minutes later the 9-0 round propelled North Carolina into the lead, an advantage Tar Heels did not condone, trailing to 14 points late.
Armando Bacot overcame a first-half foul issue to score 23 points, one of four Tar Heels with at least 20 points.
Duke (26-5, 16-4 ACC) will be the top seed in next week’s ACC tournament, although the Blue Devils’ chances of being top seed on select day have dwindled. North Carolina State (23-8, 15-5) finished with Notre Dame in second place. The Irish fighter has a tiebreak as the No. 2 seed in the ACC Championship.
North Carolina played the same five players throughout the entire second half: Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Liqui Black, Brady Mannick and Armando Bacot. And it was pretty lethal, averaging 1,528 points per possession with every player scoring at least 10 — except for Black, who scored six.
The backcourt really took off into high gear as Love continued his late play from the Syracuse game into the second half on Saturday, scoring 15 points and providing five assists. Davis can be just as devastating, as both his 10 points and assists seem to come at the biggest possible moments.
North Carolina entered the game out of Palm’s NCAA Tournament, but when Love and Davis play this way, the Tar Heels not only look like a capable team to do the tournament, but can do some damage once they get there.
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Baku played only 10 minutes in the first half after making two mistakes but he showed his impact by scoring 10 points. While Bacot couldn’t quite keep up with that pace in the second half, he played every 20 minutes, made no third mistake, and scored another 13 points. He finished with 23 points on a 10 of 11 shot from the ground while flipping on seven rebounds, two blocks and steals.
His stability gave Tar Heels boots in the second half as Duke’s star Paulo Panchero fizzled out. Banchero scored 15 points in a 7-of-13 shot in the first half, a large part of the Blue Devils’ control of the paint and their lead in the first half. But in the second half, Banchero’s 13 attempts yielded only four points and eight. Despite strong equity for Mark Williams (12 points) and Jeremy Roach (nine points), Duke didn’t have enough firepower to keep up.
After the match, Krzyzewski returned to the field in front of a house still packed with Blue Devil fans and celebrities, and apologized for the team’s efforts before the coach’s tribute ceremony began.
“This is not part of the programme, this is my improvisation by me: I’m sorry this afternoon,” Krzyzewski said, before the crowd calmed down. “No. Please. No. Please, everyone calm down, let me just say, it’s not acceptable. Today was unacceptable, but the season was very acceptable. And I will say … the season is not over.”
Instead, Duke is adding to his trophy bag with his first ACC title since 2010 and his first regular season championship since 2006. The Blue Devils’ long-standing goal has always been to add a slew of Krzyzewski’s post-season: 12 Final Fours and five National Championships.
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