Only eight miles separate Durham from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The rivalry between the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels may very well be the best that college basketball has ever seen. On Wednesday night, the game between No. 4 Duke and No. 15 North Carolina at Cameroon Indoor in Durham gave us a glimpse at how truly special and passionate collegiate basketball can be.
A late surge, sparked by Duke’s sensational freshman guard Tyus Jones, allowed the Blue Devils to close the gap after being down 79-72 with just 1:38 left to play. Jones’ ability to penetrate the lane, take contact from Tar Heel defenders and finish plays at the rim was the key to a late Duke comeback. Going absolutely bananas in the final minutes, the Cameron Crazies were also vital to their team’s ability to force overtime. Duke’s ridiculous and powerful 11-2 run in the final minutes tied the basketball game at 81-81, and an additional 5:00 overtime period would inevitably decide the victor in this unmatched rivalry.
In overtime, there were a plethora of lead changes, yet the Blue Devils thwarted the Tar Heels with the strength of freshman center Jahlil Okafor. The big freshman sprained his left ankle in the first half, but was able to give Duke what they needed down the stretch. Okafor’s unparalleled size and strength allowed him to get to the front of the rim with ease — it did not help that North Carolina decided to let him face-up to the basket one-on-one without a double-team. Okafor, Jones and senior guard Quinn Cook were the difference for Duke in the extra period, helping seal an epic win, 92-90.
For Duke, Jones led the way with a masterful game, ending with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and a steal. Additionally, Cook scored 22 points for the Blue Devils and Okafor finished the night with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Heels were led by Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, both scoring 18 points in the contest.
Duke improved its regular season record to (23-3, 10-3 ACC) while North Carolina dropped to (18-8, 8-5 ACC). Before the tip-off, Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Tar Heels’ head coach Roy Williams and their players put their arms around each other at center court to pay tribute to the late and great, Dean Smith, with a moment of silence.
*Section Photo credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Grant Halverson, Getty Images.