Coach K: “They played much better than we did, I thought we played like we had already won the regular season - we didn’t play hungry. We have to learn from this, we’re 0-0 now, there are no second chances in March.”— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 6, 2022
North Carolina spoiled Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday with a 94-81 victory over the No. 4 Blue Devils. That win could be a huge one for the Tar Heels on Selection Sunday, with North Carolina now in the projected NCAA Tournament field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm.
Duke freshman Paolo Banchero dominated in the first half, scoring 15 points as the Blue Devils led by as many as nine points. But a late surge, capped by a 3-pointer from RJ Davis with just over a second remaining, meant North Carolina trailed by a manageable two points at halftime.
In the second half, Duke led by as many as seven, but a few minutes later, a 9-0 run pushed North Carolina into the lead, an advantage the Tar Heels never ceded and pushed to as many as 14 points late.
Armando Bacot overcame first-half foul trouble to score 23 points, one of four Tar Heels with at least 20. Banchero finished with 23, although it took him 26 shots to get there.
Duke (26-5, 16-4 ACC) will be the No. 1 seed in next week's ACC Tournament, though the Blue Devils' chances of being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday may have been dented. North Carolina (23-8, 15-5) finished tied with Notre Dame in second place. The Fighting Irish have the tiebreaker as the No. 2 seed in the ACC tourney.
North Carolina played the same five players for the entirety of the second half: Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Brady Manek and Armando Bacot. And they were absolutely lethal, averaging 1.528 points per possession with each player scoring at least 10 points -- except Black, who scored six.
The backcourt truly kicked into high gear with Love carrying over his late play from the Syracuse game into Saturday's second half, scoring 15 points and dishing out five assists. Davis might have been just as devastating, with each of his 10 points and three assists seemingly coming at the biggest possible moments.
North Carolina entered the game outside Palm's NCAA Tournament field, but when Love and Davis play that way, the Tar Heels don't just look like a team capable of making the tourney, but one that can do some damage once the they get there.
Bacot played just 10 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls but showed his impact by recording 10 points. While Bacot couldn't quite keep up that pace in the second half, he did play all 20 minutes, never picking up a third foul, and scored 13 more points. He finished with 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the floor while chipping in seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
His consistency gave the Tar Heels a leg up in the second half as Duke star Paolo Banchero faded. Banchero scored 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the first half, a big part of the reason the Blue Devils dominated in the paint and led at halftime. But in the second half, Banchero's 13 attempts only produced four makes and eight points. Despite strong halves from Mark Williams (12 points) and Jeremy Roach (nine), Duke just didn't have enough firepower to keep up.
Following the game, Krzyzewski returned to the court in front of a still-packed house of Blue Devil fans and celebrities, and apologized for the team's effort before the ceremonies honoring the coach began.
"This isn't part of the program, this is impromptu by me: I'm sorry about this afternoon," Krzyzewski said, before quieting the fans. "No. Please. No. Please, everyone be quiet, let me just say, it's unacceptable. Today was unacceptable, but the season has been very acceptable. And I'll tell … the season isn't over."
Instead, Duke adds to its trophy case with its first ACC title since 2010 and first outright regular season championship since 2006. The long goal for the Blue Devils has always been to add to Krzyzewski's sizable postseason haul: 12 Final Fours and five national championships.