The scene was set. UNC defeated #1 seeded Virginia in the first game of ACC Tournament semifinals and all the Blue Devils needed to do was handle business against Notre Dame for hoops fans around the world to blessed with UNC/Duke part 3 – The basketball gods were smiling down on us and everyone knew it, except the Blue Devils, who didn’t look anything like the squad that seemed to be clicking on all cylinders against NC State the night before.
“We’ve won a lot in a row,” Mike Krzyzewski said in the post-game press conference. “I think we had won 12 in a row and playing light’s out basketball, and I don’t know from last night to tonight we just took that for granted on the necessary components to do that. But for about the first 24 minutes, I’m not sure I don’t know who we were coaching tonight. We weren’t talking. We weren’t doing anything. We weren’t following instructions and it was like an out of body experience. “
Coack K wasn’t the only person who had the “out of body” experience feeling. Everyone in the Greensboro Coliseum was stunned. Even the UNC fans who stuck around for the second game seemed too shock to cheer against their college basketball nemesis.
Pittsburgh executed their game-plan against Duke to perfection. They contained guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones, made Jahlil Okafor work for every one of his 28 points and then challenged the ACC Player of the Year to beat them from the free-throw line.
“That really was our plan in all three games,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “You know what? We just didn’t want them to light us up from the three point line, to make him work for everything, and he got 28 tonight, but he worked to get them. I thought we strategically fouled there under two minutes. Bonzie did a good job. We said let’s put him on the line because he’s hard to deal with. “
So the ACC Tournament Final Stage is set. The third and fourth best team regular season ACC teams will play each other for the coveted tournament championship.
UNC is no stranger to being in this situation, but according to Mike Brey, the significance for the Notre Dame is much greater.
“Well, there would be no greater achievement in the history of our program. Again, we were an independent for a long time, but this would be as good as anything we’ve done in our history, and it’s something, personally, I’ve kind of been searching for to get to Saturday night and play for a tournament championship.”
Tip-off for tonight’s game, that will be aired on ESPN and the ACC Network, is 8:30.