Duke’s highly anticipated contest with their archrival UNC Tar Heels ended Saturday evening with a 93-84 loss in the Dean Smith Center. Despite riding in high and playing some of their best basketball of the season, Jon Scheyer’s crew made several uncharacteristic mistakes that led to their defeat. In particular, the Blue Devils turned the ball over way too often, and UNC capitalized by piling on the fast break points and pulling ahead 45-35 at halftime. Big-time shot making from Kyle Filipowski (22 points) and freshman Jared McCain off the bench (23 points) kept Duke in the game. Truly, the final score could have been worse, with UNC playing excellent basketball on both ends of the floor virtually all night.
Armando Bacot returned to dominant form after a quiet stretch over the past several games, at least according to his lofty standards. The big man finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. That’s a stat line that no UNC player has managed to achieve against Duke in over 50 years. All-ACC caliber guard RJ Davis had a relatively quiet night, going for 17 points and 5 assists, albeit with cool 5-17 shooting. Davis was clearly a focal point on the Duke scouting report, and for long stretches of the game the Duke defense was pretty effective containing him.
Harrison Ingram, on the other hand, was not contained. The explosive wing had 21 points, 13 rebounds and 4 steals in a breakout performance, his first game in this legendary matchup. Ingram splashed five 3 pointers and seemed to be all over the court, grabbing loose balls, playing tough defense and energizing a particularly raucous UNC crowd.
Head Coach Jon Scheyer was congratulatory to the victorious home team in his post-game statement. This was nearly a wire to wire defeat, as Duke only led for about 10 seconds early in the game and had it tied a few times. Perhaps to send a message to his team, Scheyer had plenty to say:
“Our thing was getting stops tonight, which we just could not do. In transition, they push it hard… and I just wasn’t happy with the way we competed. That’s disappointing for me… we didn’t compete to the level that you need to, to have a chance to beat this team tonight. That’s what I’m disappointed about. Hats off to them, they were terrific, they’re really good. I think they’re as good as anybody. We have to learn from this quickly, make no excuses, get back to work… tonight was not good enough for me, for our program, for our team.”
With the loss, Duke falls two games behind UNC at 7-3 in ACC play. Of course, there’s still plenty of basketball to go. The Blue Devils obviously will get a chance for revenge too. UNC will have to make the perilous journey to Cameron Indoor Stadium in March. Can they close the distance in the conference race before then?