UNC completes season sweep of Duke with 91-73 home win

UNC players celebrate their win over rival Duke on Saturday in Chapel Hill. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

It’s a rivalry that always seems to deliver, but on Saturday night in the Dean Smith Center, the Tar Heels dropped a beating on the Blue Devils.

North Carolina overwhelmed Duke, 91-73, in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Tar Heels jumped on top of the Blue Devils, 26-6 and never looked back. Duke never got closer than a 12 point deficit the rest of the way. The win was the most lopsided in the series since Carolina closed the 2012 regular season with an 18-point win. It also capped the second regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils by the Tar Heels in the last three seasons.

Carolina hit five of its first eight three-pointers and knocked down eight treys on the night, including a 4-of-7 performance from freshman Kerwin Walton, who tied for the team lead with 18 points, a total also recorded by Caleb Love and Armando Bacot.

Duke, meanwhile, struggled on offense, hitting 5-of-27 from three and 40.6 percent from the field, while turning the ball over 15 times.

“Roy [Williams] had his team really prepared,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s senior night and their fans were great, and I didn’t have my team prepared the way they did. … They really played at a high level of intensity, and their defense was outstanding and knocked us back. They were excellent and we were not very good, and that’s my responsibility.”

The loss drops Duke to .500 on the season at 11-11, 9-9 in ACC games. It also effectively ends any hope of an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the Blue Devils. Duke will now need to win five games in five days at the ACC Tournament to continue on to the NCAAs. The run will start Tuesday night against No. 15 Boston College. The Blue Devils are a 10-seed, which is their lowest ACC Tourney seed in history.

Carolina improved to 16-9, 10-6 in the league, and head to the ACC Tournament as a 6-seed. The Heels will open play Wednesday night against the Wake Forest/Georgia Tech winner.

Three thoughts

1. It was Senior Night for the Tar Heels, and Roy Williams started his four departing seniors—Garrison Brooks, Andrew Platek, Walker Miller and K.J. Smith. It was the first career start for Miller, the brother of former Tar Heel and current UNC-G coach Wes. Smith, son of former Heel Kenny, started three games at Pacific before transferring and three for UNC last year. It was Platek’s eleventh career start. Miller got the team fired up early by taking a charge on Duke’s first possession.

2.  Both teams cleared their bench in the final minute, which created some late drama. Keenan Worthington and Michael Savarino played in their first career games for Duke, after redshirting last year and not getting into a game earlier this season. Savarino is the grandson of coach Mike Krzyzewski. For UNC, Sterling Manley entered the game for his first playing time since March 29, 2019. He missed all of last season and every game this year, recovering from an injury. He received a lob pass for the final points of the game. 

3. A tale of two players (part one): Duke’s leading scorer Matthew Hurt continued his struggles against the Tar Heels, hitting just 6-of-16 from the field and 2-of-10 from three. In four career games against Carolina, Hurt is 9-of-25, .360 from the field, 3-of-16, .188 from three. Against everyone else, he shoots .536 from the field, .433 from three. His scoring: 5.3 ppg against UNC, 14.1 against everyone else. He commits a foul every 5.2 minutes against UNC, every 11.3 minutes against everyone else.    

Number to Know

18-of-33 — UNC’s three-point shooting in two games against Duke. The Heels made 10-of-15 in the first game and hit five of their first eight on Saturday night. Despite hitting at a .546 rate against the Blue Devils, Carolina shot 116-of-399, .291, against everyone else this year.  


They Said It

Yeah, we only lost one game there. And I always thought I loved the home arena and what we were doing, and this year, the home court was not fans. It was the familiarity of the basket, familiarity with the floor, familiarity with the backdrop/background.”

— UNC coach Roy Williams on why he kissed the UNC logo on the court following the game (spurring social media speculation that he was planning to retire)

Player of the Game

Caleb Love, Tar Heels — A tale of two players (part 2): Love followed up his 25-point, 7-assist game against Duke in the first clash with 18 points and 7 assists in the rematch. In two games against Duke, he’s shooting .535 from the field, 5-of-11, .545 from three for 21.5 ppg and 7.0 assists. In 23 games against everyone else, his numbers are .294, .202, 9.4 ppg and 3.5 assists.

Critical thinking

Following the under 16 timeout near the start of the game, Duke’s Patrick Tape received the inbounds pass and was blocked on a layup attempt. Bodies clashed in the paint and the ball rolled away. There were 10 players on the floor at the time and none of them dove to try to retrieve it. Eventually, Caleb Love bent over and scooped it up, leading a break (and missed layup) in the other direction.

In a game that has been characterized by elite players and teams putting every ounce of emotion into each play, it was a very symbolic moment of what has been a down year for both programs. Carolina and Duke eventually found the urgency and scrapped in the second half, but the lack of effort so early in a critical game was very telling.