Roy Williams made it a point to say North Carolina wasn’t the only team playing on Wednesday night.
Duke had just as much of a say in the final outcome of the rivalry game as the Tar Heels.
Let’s take a look back at all the strange happenings in the final 2:34 of the game.
- John Henson blocks his first shot of the game at 2:19, a Ryan Kelly 3-pointer. But Duke gathers the offensive rebound. Nine seconds later, Tyler Thornton hits his first and only 3-pointer of the game. 82-75 UNC.
- Out of a Williams’ timeout, Kendall Marshall turns the ball over for only the third time all game. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee gets the steal. UNC never got into the play Williams had drawn up.
- Seconds later, Seth Curry pulls up from deep and sinks a 3-pointer. Krzyzewski said Curry may as well have been in his lap on the bench. 82-78 UNC.
- The Tar Heels let the shot clock get to 10 before Harrison Barnes drives to the basket. He had scored 19 second-half points and was looking for his 21st. Instead, he’s hit with a (correctly called) charge. Duke ball.
- Kelly misses another 3-pointer (he has trouble with those in the Smith Center) but grabs the offensive rebound. He puts up an uncontested jumper that swishes. 82-80 UNC.
- Zeller, a 79 percent free-throw shooter, misses his first FT attempt but makes the next. 83-80 UNC.
- If I had to give an award to weirdest play, this gets the gold. Kelly hoists a deep 2-ball from the wing contested by John Henson. Upon further review, Kelly’s shot would have at most grazed the side of the rim. Zeller goes up to snatch the ball out of the air (who knows if goaltending would have even been called?) but instead tips the ball toward the basket and through the net. By the way, Austin Rivers had the assist on the play—only his second of the entire game. 83-82 UNC.
- Zeller is fouled immediately on the in-bounds and goes to the line. He makes his first but misses his second despite trying to will the ball into the hoop with body language. 84-82 UNC.
- Rivers brings the ball up the court while being guarded by Reggie Bullock. Of course, Bullock is in the starting lineup only because Dexter Strickland tore his ACL and is out for the season. Pause for a moment and reflect on how fun a Rivers-Strickland matchup would have been. Bullock gets screened by Mason Plumlee and Zeller takes the switch, although Bullock seemed reluctant to do so. Time winds down and Zeller stays in a defensive stance with one foot inside the arc and one foot outside, but hands down by his side. Rivers, who had 26 points with the help of five 3-pointers, had been raining shots from distance all night long, but Zeller didn’t want to give up the drive to the basket. Coincidentally, Krzyzewski said the play was for Rivers to drive, and if it wasn’t there, shoot the 3-ball. You know what happened. 85-84 Duke.
So it wasn’t all North Carolina. Sure the Tar Heels missed some free throws and made errors on the defensive end, but Duke created opportunities for itself with offensive rebounds, charges and dead-on shooting in the final minutes.
But that’s not to say there weren’t plenty of strange occurrences on Wednesday.
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