Intensity rules in 1st Duke-UNC meeting
Posted February 14, 2013
Durham, N.C. — There were MANY times Wednesday night when I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face as I sat there engulfed by the atmosphere of the greatest rivalry in college basketball. Whether it's played in Durham or Chapel Hill, it is a privilege to witness it in person.
I was sandwiched between a wooden press row and a group of high-energy students who hopped and hollered the whole night. They left remnants of blue paint on my shirt (I always wear an old one and never a coat) and they deposited heavy doses of noise into my ears. I loved every decibel of it.
Last night drew an audience at Cameron Indoor Stadium that included Gov. Pat McCrory, who sported a smile that looked like he had just won the election. Seated a couple of rows behind the home basket were former Oklahoma Sooners head coaches Barry Switzer and Billy Tubbs.
But the main cast of characters were the Blues Brothers. One dressed in light blue, the other trimmed in dark blue. Two hall of fame coaches conducted their bands, and it took two TV networks to cover all of the angles.
What made this such a fantastic show was the effort put forth by both teams.
It has never been about a lack of talent for North Carolina this year. They have just had a difficult time of finding consistent effort and focus. The Tar Heels had both last night, and nothing proved that more than the defensive pressure they put on Duke in the first half. Bring it like that every game and there would be no questions about their postseason destination.
Effort is rarely an issue with Duke. If you don't have it, you don't play. The Blue Devils were punched in the mouth in the first half and responded in the second like a team trying to protect their turf. An exhausted Duke team sat in their locker room after the game explaining the energy needed to win a game like this. It's a good tired if you are on the winning end.
Seth Curry had to change shoes three times in this game because he blew out two pair. He joked it was because of his explosiveness. But there would be no blow out in this game. Duke responded to the challenge Roy Williams had hoped his team would put forth. "I want somebody to put their stupid feet down on the floor and compete," Williams said about his players in his pregame press conference.
What a perfect setting for a 66th birthday celebration for Mike Krzyzewski. He left the court after a 5-point win serenaded by "Happy Birthday." The day before the game, Coach K summed up the Duke/Carolina game the best. "This is a priceless event," he said.
Both teams played like it and provided us with a hunger to see them play again on March 9 in Chapel Hill.