Rushed Reactions: Duke 93, North Carolina 83Posted by Matthew Auerbach on March 10th, 2017
Three Key Takeaways.
- No matter the venue, Carolina, Duke gonna Duke, Carolina. The rivalry that almost never fails to deliver traveled north and didn’t disappoint an electrified Brooklyn crowd. North Carolina often appeared in complete control in the first half as the Tar Heels’ lead swelled to 13 points a pair of times, but Duke’s Grayson Allen (four first-half threes, including three in a 95-second span) and Jayson Tatum (18 first half points) managed to keep the Blue Devils within striking distance. North Carolina maintained control in the early second half until point guard Joel Berry picked up his fourth foul at the 15:04 mark with the Heels up nine. What ensued was a 23-7 Duke blitz, sparked by Allen, a rejuvenated Kennard and Jackson. The previously weary Blue Devils ended up being the team that imposed its will down the stretch, and the seemingly punch drunk Tar Heels failed to respond the way anyone expected.
- Grayson Allen is back. While the ACC Tournament title has its own cachet and the importance of the rivalry cannot be overstated, North Carolina and Duke always play with an eye toward the trophy awarded in early April. For Duke to become a legitimate contender, though, Allen must perform like an All-American. The junior guard’s travails have been well-documented, but more pertinently from a basketball perspective, his emotional and physical struggles have sometimes made him a marginal player. And after the no-show that was Wednesday’s 12 minutes of scoreless action, he was vital in keeping Duke alive early before spearheading the victory late. He looked healthy, focused, determined and generally back to his peak self. In short, the Duke team we thought we’d see in November simply waited until mid-March to show up. This is a major problem for the other 67 teams hoping to join the Blue Devils in Phoenix.
- Joel Berry is the most valuable Tar Heel. While Justin Jackson was deservedly tabbed as the ACC Player of the Year, it is Berry who is the Tar Heels’ most valuable player. He is the only pure point guard on the roster, and North Carolina simply looked lost while he was in foul trouble on the bench. Kennedy Meeks, who dominated Duke on the interior in the first half, became largely uninvolved without Berry on the flo0r. The team just appeared totally discombobulated with its junior floor leader on the pine, with a litany of out of whack possessions.
Star of the Game: Grayson Allen, Duke. While Tatum finished with 24 points and Kennard added 20 of his own, the game would have gotten away from Duke without Allen’s contributions in the first half. His energy and antics have been a distraction at many times this year, but tonight that energy saved the day for the Blue Devils.
- “The most disciplined, most focused, best coached team won tonight.” – Roy Williams
- “This week, even the game in Chapel Hill, I thought we played well and we just got beat. So we’re, they’re getting to know each other better. It’s a good time… It’s a good time.” Mike Krzyzewski, on his team coming together late in the year.
- “There’s a lot to still play for. I’m not trying to make anybody mad. Our final goal was not to win the ACC Tournament. Our final goal was to play on the last Monday night and win the game there.” – Williams, on more to come.
Sights and Sounds: Unsurprisingly the ardent fan bases for the pair of blue-bloods traveled north in droves to support their respective squads. The crowd was evenly split, loud and had a distinct difference of opinion with respect to Allen. Tar Heel fans booed and Blue Devil fans cheered wildly every time the junior guard touched the ball. For an arena that houses the worst team in the NBA, this rivalry gave the building a jolt of electricity it probably won’t see again for a while.
What’s Next? Duke advances to Saturday night’s championship game looking to become the first team in the tournament’s history to win four games in four days and win its first title since 2011. North Carolina will need to regroup and focus on its ultimate goal, the National Championship. This loss, however, may have ramifications in that quest, as it could result in North Carolina dropping off the #1-seed line depending on what happens in the Pac-12 Tournament.