Inglorious end to otherwise impressive run for UNC's Strickland

csmith@newsobserver.comMarch 10, 2013 

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UNC's Dexter Strickland waves to the crowd as he is recognized prior to playing his last game on Senior Night against Duke on Saturday March 9, 2013 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Prior to the tip on Saturday night, a chant broke out with fans screaming, “Dex-ter Strick-land,” when the lone scholarship senior was introduced during Senior Night.

But with 3 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the game, Duke had the game in hand with a 67-49 lead – triggering fans to exit the stadium.

“I’m a little disappointed in those people that left,” coach Roy Williams said following the loss. “I thought we would have stayed around and listened to the seniors. You can’t complain about those people, but I’m really, really pleased that those students did stay and listened to the video.

“I know that it’s not easy to sit there after somebody kicks your rear end like that.”

Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston echoed Williams’ observation.

“I do feel like (the fans) should have stayed if they cared that much about the team,” Hairston said. “I feel like that if you’re a Tar Heel fan, you still need to support your team through a loss or a win.”

By the 1:15 mark, Strickland was subbed out of the game with his head down, receiving no applause from a crowd that was nearly two-thirds empty.

A player who was a key component on four teams that compiled a total of 103 wins saw his home career end in shocking fashion at the hands of his team’s biggest rival.

“I feel sorry for him,” Hairston said. “I don’t think North Carolina’s ever lost on a Senior Night … I feel like it was somewhat our fault because we let him down. We didn’t want him to go out like this.”

After an up-and-down season for the senior, the past six games had been somewhat of a revelation for him and the Tar Heels. Strickland led the team in assists three times against Virginia, Georgia Tech and Maryland and scored a career-high 16 points against Clemson.

But those numbers meant little to fans who watched the outspoken senior shoot 25 percent from the field, including a 0-for-4 start.

While he was emotional following the loss, Strickland said he doesn’t worry too much about the fans’ response.

“Fans are going to be fans,” Strickland said. “So I don’t get into the fans rooting – that’s the least of my worries.”

Williams was 24-0 as a head coach on Senior Night, and said he never lost in 10 seasons as an assistant to Dean Smith heading into Saturday night.

“I would have really liked for Dexter to have that feeling walking out there and standing in the crowd and it being a much different atmosphere than it was today,” Williams said.

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