There may not be much hype around this year’s first Duke/Carolina matchup, but it’s still the greatest rivalry in college sports. In honor of that, the Carolina Blitz family is bringing back the nostalgia of their best matchups by sharing memories of our favorite game from the last decade.
The hype surrounding the 2019 ACC Tournament Semifinal game was unreal. Duke vs Carolina Part III. The Tar Heels swept Duke during the regular season, but the Blue Devils were playing without future #1 draft pick Zion Williamson. Fans were finally getting the game they wanted: both teams at full strength playing for a spot in the ACC Tournament championship and a #1 pick in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. UNC was ranked third in the nation and Duke was ranked fifth. From tipoff you could tell this game was different. The energy was different. The level of talent was different. Six future first round NBA Draft picks were on the floor. The first half was controlled by the Heels, who led by as many as 13 before the Blue Devils went on a run to even the score at 44 at halftime. The second half was a back and forth affair with 10 ties or lead changes. Zion Williamson would eventually put Duke up for good, 74-73, with 30 seconds remaining. This may not be the best Duke vs Carolina game, but it’s my favorite because it’s the best one I’ve ever covered.
Terence Hatchett (Said bump the parameters)
March 6th 2005. It was a nice and sunny warm early spring day. On this day the air outside wasn’t the only thing that was heating up. It was Duke vs UNC part 2 and the ACC regular season championship was on the line for UNC. Duke won the first game 71-70 after UNC literally fumbled the last possession out of bounds as time expired. It looked like UNC was headed for another loss against Duke as reserve Lee Melchionni hit a 3 to put the Blue Devils up 73-64 with under 3 minutes to go. This would’ve been 4 straight losses for Roy Williams as coach of UNC against Coach K. However, UNC had something to say and battled back. Down by 2, Raymond Felton was fouled and at the free throw line for two shots. Felton made the first one, but missed the second. The ball bounced around and eventually found its way into the hands of Marvin Williams, who secured the ball and put a shot up as he got fouled. And-1. When the ball went through the basket the Dean Dome erupted so loud the TV cameras were shaking like there was an earthquake inside the building. UNC now was up 75-73, but Duke had one last possession and the best shooter in the country. JJ Reddick came off a screen and had a look to win the game, but missed the shot. UNC had their big breakthrough win. It wasn’t the only time UNC would cut down the nets that year. They carried the momentum of this game all the way to Roy Williams’ first national championship.
Favorite game between the two blue-bloods in the last 10 years was in 2015 at Duke with the Blue-Devils trailing by 10 WITH 3 MINUTES left. The Blue Devils went on a run led by Justice Winslow’s right wing 3 pointer to cut it to 7. Tyus “Stones’ Jones then attacked the paint for the deuce. The National Player of the Year, Jahlil Okafor’s infamous “And-1” sent Cameron in a complete FRENZY to tie the game, sending the game into overtime. It was the first Duke/Carolina OT game since “04. Senior Guard Quinn Cook hit two clutch free throws that sealed the deal for Duke, solidifying how special this group was. Duke swept UNC the same year. A group of freshmen, with a couple seniors, took this battle-tested rivalry game all the way to Indianapolis and cut down the nets for Coach K’s 5th National Championship.
Not my most favorite of all time….but within the time frame given, the Tar Heels’ March 16, 2016 76-72 win over Duke stands out for a few reasons:
- UNC had lost three straight in Cameron prior to this win – seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson’s only win in Durham.
- It gave UNC the top seed heading into the ACC Tournament which the Tar Heels won later that month.
- The infamous Roy Williams dancing as he enters the locker room GIF was born.
- Sending those Duke seniors home with a loss on senior night.
- A win over that other team that wears blue.
Johnson was almost unstoppable for UNC, with 18 points and 21 rebounds. Paige, who didn’t produce the best shooting night on paper, iced the game at the free-throw line after a furious comeback from Duke. This win helped spark a UNC squad that found their groove winning the ACC Tournament, making the Final Four, and falling just short in the National Championship game (don’t even mention it).