Talking Points: Delayed gratification for Heels
Posted February 21, 2014
1. Duke didn't have an answer for North Carolina in the most critical moments of Thursday night's sloppy, yet entertaining rivalry showdown in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils compounded their defensive issues and diminished energy with bad offense, allowing the Tar Heels to slowly take control of the game and sweep the leg in the closing minutes.
Duke went 11-for-31 from the field in the second half, including a stretch that lasted nearly 10 minutes where they missed 13 straight. The Devils missed layups, made only three of their 13 attempts from beyond the arc, turned the ball over seven times and mustered .829 points per possession.
Ultimately, North Carolina's defensive effort and overall intensity were the differences in the game. Credit to Roy Williams for making the right adjustments, utilizing zones to stifle Duke's typically efficient offense.
2. North Carolina had various contributions from the eight players who clocked double-digit minutes on the court. Whether it was James Michael McAdoo pulling down 10 rebounds to go along with a handful of key drives to the basket or Desmond Hubert's efforts on defense, the Tar Heels got a little something from everyone.
The Tar Heels who truly stood out in the victory over Duke were Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald.
Duke clamped down on Paige in the first half, with the sophomore going scoreless on only two shot attempts and turning it over three times. Yet Paige has developed the uncanny ability to overcome these shaky starts with wizardry in the second half.
McDonald found himself in a zone early on, going 5-of-7 for 11 points in the first half and finishing the game with a team-high 21 points. Make no mistake, North Carolina needed this kind of performance out of the senior, and he came through in a huge way.
3. Duke absorbed North Carolina's initial start to the game, and the general feeling was that the Blue Devils would pull away after halftime. And why not? Rodney Hood was unstoppable and Quinn Cook was engaged. Duke was also getting an aggressive performance out of Marshall Plumlee.
Then it all went away from the Blue Devils in the second half.
"We didn't have life," Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. "No matter what we did in a timeout, we just didn't have that spark. The anger. The emotion. The thing you have to have to match their crowd and their team."
Krzyzewski believed North Carolina had "it" and his Duke squad didn't have "whatever the hell that thing is."
4. The Tar Heels started off the game 1-of-8 from the free throw line. The misses were atrocious enough to create a palpable tension inside the Smith Center every time they went to the stripe. After J.P. Tokoto made consecutive free throws, the crowd let out a sarcastic cheer that was mixed with nervous relief. The Heels managed to settle down abd didn't let their previous issues from the line hurt the rest of the game, as they converted 19 of their next 23 attempts.
5. [Obligatory comment about terrible ACC officiating.]
6. For all the hand wringing over last week's postponement of the game, it actually added to the atmosphere Thursday night in Chapel Hill. So when North Carolina claimed victory once the final buzzer sounded, it wasn't a surprise to see students release that pent up energy and rush the court.
Social media instantaneously shamed North Carolina students for taking to the floor. "Act like you've been there before," was a common refrain. Others used the opportunity to concern troll over safety issues.
These are probably the same people who glued their LEGO sets together because they hate fun.
At some point older fans and media will realize students really don't care about the unwritten rules of court storming or the stodgy opinions of a generation that already had their time on campus. Let them enjoy their youth and the amusing stupidity that goes along with it.