I insist on gloating today. I insist on being annoying about it too. Today, that’s how I’m going to roll.
All season long, I’ve heard it said and I’ve seen it written that Duke has been on an up-and-down roller coaster ride with a “bitter slump pushing them to the brink of being unranked” before finding themselves late in the season.
The first meeting of the 2013-14 regular season between Duke and Carolina was to have been February 12th. Mother Nature decided to dump “Snowpocalypse” on Chapel Hill and the Dean Dome instead. That game was rescheduled for February 20th.
Duke led the Tarheels during the entire first half but lost control in the second to lose 74-66. I was crestfallen. A short two days later, my boys would take revenge for their February 1st overtime lose in the Carrier Dome to Syracuse 91-89.
The Orange came to our house, Cameron Indoor Stadium, where all the “Crazies” live. It was at Cameron that The Orange found out that they are not the gods of the ACC and that rules ignored at your house can be equally ignored at our house. It was the scene of Coach Bonheim literally losing his shit over a clear blocking foul and enduring a 66-60 loss to my beloved Blue Devils.
Last night was Senior Night. The Tobacco Road Rivalry was set between The Heels and the Devils. I had a feeling in my heart of hearts that this meeting would end in victory for my beloved Blue Devils.
I was right.
Jabari Parker had his most polished game of the season late night. Even with Carolina’s best defender, J. P. Tokoto, draped all over him in an attempt to frustrate him Parker patiently picked his spots. One possession he would receive a post entry pass, face up and nail a jumper. The next, he'd face up again, see Tokoto anticipating the jumper and drive right to the rim.
Rodney Hood scored 24 points and combined with Parker for 27 of Duke’s 40 first-half points. As strong as their first half was, the real clinic came in the second half.
The Blue Devils led by as many as 19 points during multiple stretches, breaking down the North Carolina defense to shoot 50.9 percent from the field. At certain points, it looked as if Hood and Parker were toying with a fangless Tar Heel defense.
Hood finished with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting and knocked down three of Duke's eight shots from beyond the arc.
Duke's last 16 points came at the charity stripe. The Devils did not hit a field goal in the final 6:56 because Carolina had apparently decided to start fouling early to get back in the game. On a lesser team that strategy might have worked. Carolina didn’t reckon that Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon and the shooter-heavy lineup were going to be cold-blooded at the stripe.
Oh yeah, Marcus Paige, the vaunted second-half wonder boy looked scorched at the end. I loved his expression. That’s why I picked that photo to chop.
It was an exhilarating game to watch. I couldn’t have asked for anything better to cheer me up after spending a week at home with pneumonia.
From here, it’s on to next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
Four slots still remain to be determined as of this writing. Already locked are (1) Virginia, (2) Syracuse, (3) Duke, (4) North Carolina and (5) Pitt.
Carolina and Duke have drawn byes and won’t see action until Friday.
Go Duke. And by the way, Carolina GTH.