Night Court: Duke beats UNC in an overtime instant classic

Everything you ought to know from college basketball's Wednesday …  

Game of the Night: You already know it.

Game of the Night? Nah. How about game of the regular season? Duke 92, North Carolina 90 just may qualify as that. It was the first extra-session tilt between the two in 11 years and Duke won that one by two as well (83-81 on Feb. 4, 2004).

And you know what was great? Such a vintage game began like this.

More than anything, I just enjoyed, soaked in the greatness that was this game, and was appreciative that college basketball continually gives us these kind of games. Not every game is watchable. Few are epics. But well before March, every damn year, we get a heavy batch of passionate battles that come close to, equal, or top what happened in Cameron on Wednesday night.

For UNC, what could have been a reputation-altering win instead became the stuff of nightmares. The Tar Heels were up nine points with 2:40 to go ... and then Tyus Jones just took over and helped spark Duke's 11-2 run. Jones was outstanding. A lot of big plays for so many players on both sides tonight, but nobody made more big plays than Jones.

And Duke needed that, because although Jahlil Okafor wound up playing 41 minutes, he did twist his left ankle, and that clearly had some affect on his game. Still, Okafor finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The twisted ankle came eight minutes after this play, which is somehow, like, the ninth most amazing thing about the game.

It came after this play, which is somehow, like, the ninth most amazing thing about the game.

UNC has dropped four of five games. It lost that 18-point lead at Louisville a few games back. And now it dropped this one, in this fashion? I want to believe UNC is a top-15 team, but you've gotta be able to close.

There were a few mental errors, no doubt, and actually, in a weird way, for UNC to play as well as it did with Marcus Paige having a C-plus kind of game, that's good? I guess. UNC was just 2 for 10 from 3. It was a good up-and-down game, one that had 84 possessions and a lot of offense.

You knew it was good because, even as the game ended, it didn't necessarily feel "right" that Duke won and UNC lost. And if the outcome was reversed, you probably would have felt the same way. That's the best attribute of a great game: the ending is what it is, and you come to grips with accepting.

Though, I know UNC fans won't due to the no-call here, as Duke was able to set the game up for OT.

Roy Williams, who noted his team shot poorly (12 for 20) from the foul line, is now 11-17 all-time vs. Duke. His team has to recover, lest the season sort of spiral into a forgettable denouement. 

Tyus Jones was the MVP for Duke in the second half. (Getty Images)

In other news, Iowa State took in a nice road win.

The game seems so small by comparison, but it was the other "major" game between ranked teams on Wednesday night. And the Cyclones beat Oklahoma State 70-65 to improve to 19-6.

The Cowboys are now a 7-7 Big 12 team, but they're still in solid shape. Four players scored 12 or more points, and OSU's defense for the most part was pretty solid. Iowa State happened to own the boards, and that felt like the difference here.

Hey, that's a good win: Xavier wins the Crosstown Shootout, a classic game with Cincinnati.

Yes, UNC-Duke was the headliner, but this 7 p.m. tip lived up to the billing of being, in my opinion, a top-five rivalry in college basketball.

A 59-57 final.

And it's just terrific to have this game back on each school's campus. Cincy got hosting duties on Wednesday, but Chris Mack's guys played about as tough as I've seen them all season. These should both be tournament teams. Cincinnati rallied, erasing a 12-point Xavier lead, but a late 3 from Dee Davis gave Mack's guys the lead back.

Going 8 for 15 from deep was pivotal for Xavier in getting the win. And for Cincy, a tough rivalry game ends in a loss, but at least it kept the O-minded Musketeers under 60. The Bearcats, as usual, are reliable defensively.

Oh, that's a bad loss: UCLA loses 68-66 against Arizona State.

The Bruins shouldn't be in the NCAA Tournament come tomorrow morning's bracket forecasts. Arizona State's putting together a good conference showing overall as of late (now 6-7 in the league), but UCLA has no good non-con wins and is standing on the shoulders of its sweep of Stanford.

That's not tremendous. Bruins are going to need to either take out Arizona this weekend (unlikely) or win out its final three games, all of which come at home. Doable, yes.

Louisville drops second straight game with shorthanded performance at Syracuse.

The Cardinals haven't lost two straight in more than two years. But following the home gaffe against N.C. State over the weekend, Rick Pitino's team wasn't able to squeeze out a good one against SU.

The Orange, who are now 17-9 and would be in bubble contention if they were eligible for the 2015 postseason, got consistent play out of Rakeem Christmas and this guy, Michael Gbinije, who had one of the best blocks I've seen in college hoops this season.

This marked the Orange's first win against a ranked team this season, too. Gbinije had 18. Christmas put up a game-high 29 points (he's blossomed into such a nice senior player).

The Cardinals are now 20-6, but 8-5 in the ACC, and that likely means getting a No. 2 seed in the league tourney is out the window. Louisville, remember, played this game without Chris Jones, who was suspended on Wednesday.

TODAY'S TOP PLAYERS

1. We start with Tyus Jones. Twenty points, eight assists and seven rebounds. And about six plays that were crucial to keeping Duke's hopes alive.

2. Have yourself a meal, Jameel McKay. Who? He plays for Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg's capable of building these kind of rosters. McKay finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks against OSU. 

3. Can we just lump in a whole bunch of Green Bay player? The Phoenix won 96-76 over Detroit. Jordan Fouse: 13 points, nine assists, six rebounds, four steals; Keifer Sykes: 23 points, eight assists, seven rebounds; Greg Mays: game-high 34 points.

Also hoo boy, Sykes!

4. Miami's Tonyi Jekiri had himself a night in the Hurricanes' 76-52 streamrolling of Virginia Tech. Jekiri had a 15-15 performance (points and rebounds).

5. In his team's 75-49 win over Presbyterian, Charleston Southern senior Saah Nimley put up 34 points on 8-of-13 shooting from deep.

6. I'm giving LaDonate Henton some love here. He deserves more. The Providence forward had 22 points and 11 rebounds in PC's 84-57 victory at DePaul.

Numbers to figure

2: The number of consecutive wins for TCU in Big 12 play. For the Horned Frogs, who are spending their third year in the league, it marks the first time the team's won back-to-back games in-conference. TCU beat dreadful K-State, 69-55, to move their record to 16-10.

44-44: The record between Duke and UNC in the last 88 games.

133-106: The all-time record between Duke and UNC, in favor of the ... Tar Heels.

20: With its 83-62 W over Gardner-Webb, High Point is now 20-7. This is the 16th season for HPU as a D-I program. Just the second time the Panthers have eclipsed 20 victories in a season since.

Other outcomes blipping the radar:

  • Boise State spoils UNLV's night to honor Tark. The Las Vegas strip dimmed its lights in tribute (a rare act) but Boise State kept itself in the bubble mix by winning 53-48. This was the first time BSU's won at Las Vegas. The Broncos move to 19-7. Leon Rice may well win Mountain West coach of the year.
  • George Washington has put itself into a hole it may not be able to climb out of. A home game against Davidson ended with a 65-63 loss, meaning GW has dropped four of five. Once 16-4, now the Colonials are 17-9 and on the bad side of the bubble. Kethan Savage missed the would-be winner for G-Dub as time expired. Good news is this team, in this league, is capable of making a trip to the A-10 title game. It'll probably need it. Davidson, meanwhile, is 18-6 and getting closer.
  • Start keeping track of the Rhode Island Rams. They're 10-3 in the A-10 following a 75-59 win over UMass tonight. Four guys in double figures, and Hassan Martin had 11 boards and four blocks.
  • While they're no lock, Arkansas is a near-guarantee to reach the NCAA Tournament. Thought you should know. Hogs won 84-69 over Missouri.
  • And it's time to start taking Oregon into consideration. At 18-9 following a win over Colorado, the Ducks are at least a bubble team. And I didn't think this group would finish the season above .500. Mea culpa. Dana Altman knows how to coach basketball.
  • Ho-hum: Wisconsin 55, Penn State 47. Sam Dekker led the Badgers with 22.
  • No Dorian Finney-Smith (suspension) or Michael Frazier (ankle) but Florida rallied to win 50-47 over Vanderbilt.
  • Northern Iowa's defense is just sick, and with a 58-39 road win against Loyola of Chicago, the Panthers are now 25-2.
  • With James Madison winning 82-78 over Drexel and Northeastern beating William & Mary 75-64, JMU, Northeastern and Bill/Mary are tied for second in the CAA at 10-5. Great league race unfolding.
  • Northwestern's on fire! The Wildcats win 72-66 at Minnesota, giving NU its third Big Ten victory.

Miscellanea, etc. ...

Give it a look: Our Sam Vecenie updated his big board earlier on Wednesday. Analysis and explanation.

One of my favorite stories from this season: UNLV legends of yore getting matching tattoos in honor of Jerry Tarkanian.

Jordan Conn is among the most promising young sportswriters out there. His feature here, on Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer.

Is one of the most impressive physical players in prep hoops going to be playing come next fall? The latest on Thon Maker.

Beautiful photo from our CBS Sports Instagram account.

A photo posted by CBS Sports (@cbssports) on Feb 18, 2015 at 6:41pm PST

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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