CHAPEL HILL, N.C. —- North Carolina came out with a purpose Saturday night, earning a statement 93-84 win over a formidable foe in the Duke Blue Devils. They quickly disarmed their blue-blooded foe to advance to 18-4 and 10-1 in the ACC.
In the opening minutes, both teams traded shots, as the Blue Devils were paced by senior guard Jeremy Roach who led with 10 points. He was back at full strength after suffering a bout of lower-body injuries. But with each shot, UNC held on to a slight lead and eventually pulled away to close the half with a 45-35 advantage.
Roach finished the game with 18 points, but freshman guard Jared McCain led the scoring drive for the Devils with 23 points. After limiting Kyle Filipowski to just six points in the first half, he finished with 22 points and was hindered significantly by Bacot on the boards, only totaling five.
Notoriously a chippy rivalry, the Tar Heels didn’t waste time getting physical with their foes, but were able to stave off the competition and keep their 10-0 perfect record at home – establishing their dominance as the top team in the state.
“We just knew,” Armando Bacot said. “Coming in we knew we had to be physical from the jump. Me and Coach Davis we met after the Georgia Tech game and he was asking me different ways he wanted to get me involved and giving me the ball where I like it.”
Bacot scored his first double-double in five games with a 25-point performance to go along with ten rebounds. He snapped out of his three-game funk where he’d only scored in single digits, lifting the weight off RJ Davis who was targeted throughout the entire game – finishing with 17 points.
Both of them provided a much-needed boost to an already potent offense, but multiple factors can be attributed to this team’s success, an important one being the impact of North Carolina’s offseason roster overhaul.
Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan were pivotal in tonight’s win, scoring 21 and nine points respectively. Ryan paced the floor, cracking the first three of the night and making crucial plays throughout to put the Tar Heels up front. But it was Ingram who shot a career-high five three-pointers (3-of-5), scoring 20+ points for the first time since Dec. 5. He also controlled the boards with 13 and matched his career-high of four steals.
In his first rivalry game, Ingram says he blacked out and even in the minutes after the game, he was still in awe of what the environment at Dean Dome showed him.
“The crowd had to have broken a sound barrier or something,” he said.
Ingram approached the game with a poise and confidence that mimics his past performances, attributing that self-assurance to coach Davis and his scheme.
Davis said that the hunger that exists is especially visible within Ingram, highlighting that his emphatic energy is infectious among the group.
“There’s a hunger and thirst with this group that individually and as a team that they need to be the best they can be,” he said. “You have guys like Cormac and Pax and Harrison who never run out that tunnel and look at that crowd. To be on this stage, it comes with a thankfulness and appreciation for being here. Because it’s the first time in their career that they’ve been in this situation.”
To celebrate the win? Ingram and the squad plan on hitting Franklin St., where they’ll encounter thousands of fans who are already making it known who the better blue is.
“I can’t wait, imma go out there with my brother and sister and go crazy,” he said. “ I still don’t even know what’s going on. I feel like I’m in a movie. But at the end of the day, kudos to my teammates, everyone was ready to go.”
And on go they were
- Carolina improves to 25-24 against Duke when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 10. It is the most top-10 matchups between two teams in college basketball history, the next highest being UNC and NC State with 14.
- UNC is 43-26 against AP Top 10 opponents in the Smith Center.
- UNC is 5-2 against AP-ranked opponents this season.
- Hubert Davis is 7-5 against AP Top 10 opponents in three seasons as head coach.
- Carolina scored the most points by any team vs. Duke since the Tar Heels scored 94 in Cameron Indoor Stadium on 3/5/22.
- The 93 points were the most this season by the Tar Heels since scoring 103 against Syracuse on January 13.
- UNC scored the most points Duke allowed in a first half this season. Carolina’s 10-point halftime lead was the largest halftime deficit the Blue Devils have faced this season.