Duke didn’t have “it” – whatever it is – during its loss at North Carolina back on Feb. 20. And the Tar Heels didn’t have it, either, during their 93-81 defeat at Duke on Saturday night. The loss snaps UNC’s 12-game winning streak.
Here’s the story of the game, from Laura Keeley. And a column from Luke DeCock about how this was likely the UNC-Duke finale for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. And, from me, a story about UNC’s lost opportunities and what-ifs – though as Marcus Paige said, the Tar Heels didn’t lose because they didn’t capitalize late.
And, as we usually do around here, some delayed thoughts …
1. It just wasn’t UNC’s night.
Even the best of teams sometimes have an off night, and the Tar Heels have had a few of them of late. They won their past three games by a combined seven points, and won without anything close to their best. That was never going to happen, though, on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC needed play to its potential, and needed to play like it did during the middle of that 12-game winning streak. The Tar Heels shot nearly 60 percent, but they struggled defensively and finished with just 20 rebounds – their fewest in 27 years. Meanwhile, Duke freshman Jabari Parker picked a good time to play his best college game.
2. Speaking of rebounding …
UNC has been one of the best rebounding teams in the nation this season, and it ranks first in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, and third in overall rebounding percentage. What happened on Saturday night, then, is difficult to explain. Statistically, the odds of it happening have to be astronomical. But it did happen. UNC, one of the best rebounding teams in the ACC, finished with just 20 rebounds – its fewest since its lost against N.C. State in the 1987 ACC tournament championship game. It was a bit fluky, how it happened. Duke takes a lot of 3-pointers, and so there are going to be lots of long rebounds. And James Michael McAdoo, who, in theory, should be one of UNC’s best rebounders, spent a large portion of the game in foul trouble.
3. The Tar Heels need to rediscover the urgency.
Roy Williams has talked about urgency over and over and over again this season. It has become a cliché but it really is true: When UNC plays with a sense of desperation, it usually has success. The Tar Heels didn’t have that all the time on Saturday night. Sure, they played hard after falling behind 17-4 early, and they picked up the intensity late in the second half. From the start, though, Duke was the aggressor while UNC appeared a bit flat and fatigued. I wrote about this in a story here.
Duke held a decisive edge in two of the four categories – rebounding and free throw attempts. The Blue Devils went 27-for-31 from the line.
UNC is the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament. It will play on Friday against either Pittsburgh, the No. 5 seed, or Notre Dame or Wake Forest – one of which will play Pitt on Thursday.