basketball

North Carolina Beats Duke advances on title game

NEW ORLEANS – Hubert Davis took a picture of the Caesars Superdome, the site of this year’s men’s Final Four, in the North Carolina locker room on the first day of practice this season.

It was a strong statement for a first-year head coach, especially one taking over a storyd program from Roy Williams, one of the college basketball successful coaches. But somehow, Davis seems to be proposing an endgame, one that includes North Carolina to play for a national title, even if it means going through his bitter rival Duke.

“It just shows how much trust and faith he had in us at the beginning of the year,” North Carolina guard RJ Davis said. “He told us we would be in that position, so we can also tell our parents to book their tickets to New Orleans now.”

North Carolina vs. Duke has long been one of the premier rivalries of college basketball, the history of the teams so rich and their fans so heartily invested that even their regular seasonal gatherings carry championship atmosphere.

It’s a rivalry so controversial that North Carolina’s lucky spoiler played coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last home game as a pilot of this targeted duke program, a loss Krzyzewski considered “unacceptable” in an attempt to motivate his team for a postseason run .

And, as it were, North Carolina put a period on Krzyzewski’s college coaching career, following a dizzying array of lead changes hanging over the Duke on Saturday night, 81-77, giving Krzyzewski the chance to embarrassed to lift a championship hardware. last time on the way out of the sport.

The game’s 18 lead changes built Frenzy up to the last minute, when Duke center Mark Williams missed a pair of free kicks that would have given the Blue Devils the lead, and North Carolina’s Caleb Love is followed by a 3-point lead.

Some people will remember that Love missed his first five shots of the game or did not score a point in the first 15 minutes of the game. Instead, the image will be retained of the 3-point jumper with 25 seconds left, the shot that snatched away the Blue Devils’ chances and sealed North Carolina’s place in the NCAA Championship game. The Tar Heels will fight against Kansas, who easily beat Villanova on Saturday, a Monday night.

“Very few people in that situation are looking for that type of shot. Caleb is one of them,” Davis said. “He has the confidence to beat it.”

The basket put an end to Krzyzewski’s historic career, which began in 1980, included the most winning of all coaches in men’s college basketball and saw him form decades of NBA talent, from Grant Hill to Kyrie Irving and want others. In addition to the Duke, Krzyzewski also helped the US men’s basketball team from 2005 to 2016 and won three Olympic gold medals.

After the game, Krzyzewski mentioned that his players were emotional after the loss. He, remarkably, was not.

“I mean, when you have three daughters, 10 grandchildren, and you’ve been through a lot,” he said, “you are used to caring about the emotions of the people you love and for whom you are responsible. And that is where I am. And I’m sure I’ll get on with it in my own way at some point. “

The size of the game felt good before the teams played. The introduction of the players was barely heard about the roar of the audience. The superdome, which holds nearly 75,000 people, was packed with blue clothing, both sky and navy.

The Blue Devils, led by a talented unit that includes three freshmen who are scheduled to enter the NBA Draft at the end of the season – Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin – sometimes seem to be in control, but as expected in a game like this, no team pulled away.

Banchero, a 6-foot-10 striker who can shoot in many ways, did just that against North Carolina, picking up 3-pointers and throwing powerful dunks as the Tar Heels players slid past him into the basket.

But the Tar Heels were asked to seize this moment from Duke and Krzyzewski once again, hoping for a seventh national title in their 12th championship game appearance.

So they matched the energy of the motivated Blue Devils and their passionate fans. They took advantage of Duke’s big men, who spend time on the bench with foul problems. Love, who scored 14 points in the round of 8 against St. Louis. Peter’s in 30 shots against UCLA, struck seven straight shots to start the second half, and the Tar Heels halftime deficit to a 3-point lead early in the period.

Armando Bacot, one of the focal points of North Carolina’s run to the finals, took advantage of Duke’s smaller lineups when his majors were not on the ground, with his 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame for rims. shoot and pull. and 21 Rebounds.

The Duke knew all season that this would be Krzyzewski’s last, and the players did everything they could to post his retirement, beating Cal State Fullerton, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas to reach Saturday’s semifinals. . And Krzyzewski has shown a lot of emotion in his recent coaching appearance.

Sometimes he stood, staring almost stubbornly as his players talked on loose balls. Then he sat down on a small wooden stool near the Duke’s bench, turned back and forth as the teams ran up and down the court.

But after the game, Krzyzewski never strayed from the personal face he had so often shown. He drew attention to his players when asked to summarize his career. He spoke with a calmness that conveyed a peace as it was all over.

“I will be fine,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m blessed to be in the arena. And when you’re in the arena, you either go out with a great feeling, or you’ll feel scared. But you’ll always feel good when you’re in the arena.

He added: “And I’m sure that’s the thing I’ll look back on and I’ll miss: I will not be in the arena anymore.”

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