ACC Semifinals: A Tobacco Road Rivalry on Atlantic Avenue

By Jaquam Bodden
Mar. 10, 2018

Photo Credit: Nicole Sweet/USA Today Sports

On a Friday Night in Brooklyn, New Yorkers in attendance at the ACC tournament at Barclays Arena got a taste of what the UNC vs Duke rivalry is like. The last time these two teams faced off Duke beat the UNC 74-64 to even the season series at one game a piece. Part three held more importance for both teams as the winner of the game will go to the ACC championship game to play No.1 seeded Virginia. For the Tar heels advancing to the championship game wasn’t the only goal, coming into this game UNC was one game behind Duke for most ACC tournament wins.

North Carolina 74, Duke 69

The Tar Heels came out the gates dominating as they raced out to a 10-1 lead thanks to a r point shot by Joel Berry II. The lead would soon grow to 18-5 with 11:18 remaining in the half as Luke May hit a jumper off the pass from Kenny Williams. The Blue Devils found themselves in the mud early but they would come storming right back with an 7-0 run to cut the defecit to 6 with 9:21 remaining in the first half. Duke would come back to cut the lead to one late in the half but UNC would finish strong to take a 36-31 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the Tar Heels picked up from where they left off as they extended their lead to nine points. The Tar Heels would soon extend that lead to 15 when Cameron Johnson hit a three pointer to give the Tar Heels a 70-55 lead with 6:44 remaining in the game. Duke would go on a 14-2 run to run to cut UNC’s lead to 3 but a key turnover by Grayson Allen sealed the victory for Carolina as they went on to win 74-69. The game could have easily gone the other way because the last six minutes North Carolina had a huge collapse, but they were able to hang on. “I have nothing to say about the last five minutes of that game” Coach Roy Williams said in the postgame press conference. He then joked that one of the assistants coach Robinson coached the part of the game but he was still proud that his team was able to hang on. “Bottom Line is we made enough plays and were still playing, so I’m happy”.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke about his team’s experience in the ACC tournament. “We learned a lot here. We played two really good games, two really good teams, and we know we can play better. I’m proud of my guys, I thought the last six minutes they showed an incredible will to win against a very, very good basketball team. We had a chance but we got to do that a little bit earlier”. Despite the loss to Carolina, Krzyzewski has shifted his main focus to the NCAA tournament. “Everyone is 0-0 starting next week, so that’s the way we’re looking at it. I think that we are more prepared for the NCAA tournament than we were a month ago, and these two games will help us”.

Luke Maye led North Carolina with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Even though he didn’t have a big game, senior wing Theo Pinson contributed well for the Tar Heels with eight points and seven rebounds. Duke Was led by Gary Trent Jr. who scored 20 points, Marvin Bagley scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Bagley now leads the ACC in double doubles with 21 on the season.

The atmosphere at Barclays was like no other. Throughout the game there were chants off Let’s Go Duke and “TAR HEELS” that filled throughout the arena. You either saw shades of Carolina or royal blue being worn throughout the stands. The attendance was at an all-time high for the game, about 18,157 people were in the arena to witness this game. Duke Alums Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets center Jahlil Okafor and many more were in attendance on Friday.