(North Carolina’s Theo Pinson putting up a shot in the first half – Photo by Jason Schott)
North Carolina beat Duke in an utter classic, 74-69, in the ACC Semifinals on Friday night at Barclays Center.
North Carolina will take on Virginia in the ACC Championship Game Saturday night at 8:30 pm. This is the second time they are facing off in the title game in three seasons, which was won by North Carolina.
North Carolina was led by Luke Maye, who had a double-double with 17 points on 8-18 shooting, and 10 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. He also had four assists.
Joel Berry II had 13 points (3-11 FG< 3-7 three-pointers), with six assists and five rebounds.
Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams, and Garrison Brooks had 10 apiece, with Williams also racking up six assists and six rebounds.
The biggest stats for North Carolina were that they had 18 offensive rebounds and 24 assists.
Duke was led by Gary Trent, Jr., who had 20 points on 7-16 from the field, including 2-7 from behind the arc, with six rebounds and one assist.
Marvin Bagley III had 19 points on 7-13 from the field, with 13 rebounds to give him a double-double. Grayson Allen had 16 points on 4-11 from the field, including 4-10 on threes, with four assists and four rebounds, while also committing four turnovers. Wendell Carter, Jr., had 14 points (4-7 FG), nine rebounds, four blocks, and an assist.
Trevon Duval was held scoreless in 30 minutes, as he shot 0-6 from the field, including 0-3 from behind the arc, with seven assists and three rebounds, but he committed five turnovers.
North Carolina picked up where they left off on Thursday night as they jumped out to a 16-3 lead at the 13:00 mark of the first half on a Garrison Brooks free throw.
Duke responded with an 11-2 run capped by a Marvin Bagley III dunk at 8:44 which made it 18-14 UNC. Duke also dominated on the defensive end, as they racked up three blocks on consecutive possessions to get the crowd going.
One of the more interesting plays of the game came when Theo Pinson caught what basically was a pass from Brooks while he was on the ground, and Pinson then tossed it up to Sterling Manley, who laid it in to make it 24-17 North Carolina at 6:20.
Duke kept it going on defense, as Grayson Allen tipped one off a Pinson miss to Trevon Duval, who got it to a streaking Gary Trent, Jr., for a short jumper to pull Duke within one at 26-25. Bagley followed with a jumper to give Duke their first lead of the game, 27-26, at the 2:02 mark.
At the 1:44 mark, Joel Berry II made a three-pointer to give North Carolina the lead back, at 29-27.
Soon after, with 52.7 seconds left, Grayson Allen was called for a flagrant foul as he stepped back and leveled a sort of hip check on Garrison Brooks as he was going up the court. Brooks made both free throws.
Berry said of what he and Allen were talking about after the play, “Oh, yeah, I told them, they’re always going to get on him about that. Any little trip he does, if he puts a finger on somebody, you know they’re going to react. So it’s always a joking thing with me and Grayson. I don’t have any hatred towards him. We’re good friends. We’re both from Florida, and we played with each other. But I just told him that you’ve just got to watch yourself because anything you do like that you know they’re going to get on you about. That’s why we laughed it off.”
This was a case that Allen’s reputation for dirty plays preceded him, as another player might have been given the benefit of the doubt for incidental contact.
Berry’s three started a 10-4 run for UNC that gave them a 36-31 lead at halftime.
North Carolina maintained a seven-point lead for the early going of the second half, but a 6-0 run capped by Berry free throws gave them a 56-43 lead, which matched their biggest edge early in the game. They would take a 15-point lead, 70-55, on a Johnson three-pointer at the 6:44 mark.
A little while later, at 5:33, Maye hit a jumper that made it a 16-point game, 72-56. .
Maye came up huge on the defensive end when he got two offensive rebounds in a row to take a minute off the clock, with their possession going from 3:34 to 2:33.
Despite losing that time, Duke went on a 13-0 run capped by a Trent three-pointer with just 50 seconds left that made it 72-69 North Carolina.
Almost immediately after UNC inbounded it, Duval committed a foul, since Duke had one to give before the bonus. Carolina then took it down to 25 seconds, when Carter stole it from Maye.
Duke raced down to the other end, where Allen drove the lane with 17.8 seconds left, hoping to get a basket and foul to tie it, and though it looked like Maye got him over the top, Allen crashed into Williams, who gained position down low, and Allen was called for the offensive foul.
Incredibly, Pinson turned it over in the corner on Carolina’s ensuing possession, leaving Duke with 11 seconds to tie it up.
Allen raced to the other end, and as he put up the three-point attempt from the left side, he sneaked under three Carolina defenders to get the shot off and it rimmed out.
Pinson got the rebound and was fouled by Carter with three seconds left. He went to the line and drained both free throws to seal the win.
North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams said of the win, “I have nothing to say about the last five minutes. Coach (Steve) Robinson coached that part of the game. You guys be sure and tell Coach Rob I said that. It was unbelievable. I thought from a big stretch in the second half, we were really, really good. We were making shots. We were defending. And then all of a sudden the five-minute mark, we have five turnovers. Thank goodness when we missed a bunch of shots, we also got the rebound. Theo goes to the line and makes two free throws to salt it away. Kenny took a big time charge for us.
“But you’ve got to congratulate Duke, but gracious sakes, they made a bunch of shots. They beat us over there seven days ago, I thought we were timid or tight or scared, remember I told you that, you guys get to choose. I didn’t necessarily think we were that today, we were just sloppy. We threw one look away pass and turned it over. We turned it over and Kenny is running down there to get the ball in the back court and I’m screaming no, no, no, because I knew that they threw the ball, it was going to be a backcourt violation, and he slips and falls and it’s their ball back out of bounds. It was some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen.
“But the bottom line is we made enough plays and we’re still playing, so I’m happy. And if you guys will direct your questions towards the players first so we can let them get out of here, that would be good.”
Pinson, who finished with eight points, seven assists, four rebounds, and three steals, said of the final six minutes, “I know personally, it’s just another thing I can say that I’ve been through. I mean, me and J.B. been through literally every single situation you can go through. I mean, going down the sideline, I got the ball in my hands, and I feel it slip out of my hands. I’m just like, oh, my God, you’ve got to make up for this one.
“But I just like how we fought back. At the same time, you’ve just got to keep playing. You can’t just stop. The game is still going on. You just want to make plays. We got some big time offensive rebounds. That’s part of the game, also. We extended a couple drives in the time window — extended possessions.”
Berry said of their approach down the stretch, ” Yeah, I think towards the end we were just trying not to make mistake and we ended up making mistakes instead of just continuing to be aggressive. Coach always wants us to make the smart play, but at that time we just stopped being aggressive and they were the ones that were being aggressive. Situations like that, we’ve just got to keep playing and just remember that we can’t stop being aggressive. And at that time that’s what we did and that’s why we made the game so close.”
The North Carolina bench outscored Duke’s 16-0, and Williams said of that, “Yeah, and we said something to the guys before because the last couple of games — well, the last two games their bench has completely out-manned ours, points, rebounds, everything, so we wanted our guys to give us a good lift. I thought Garrison (Brooks) was really good. Sterling (Manley) was — what was is it, six (points). I thought he gave us some moments. He’s around that basket. I get on him all the time about going up strong with it because I thought he’s too soft. His first two attempts were blocked. And I forget which time at it, might have been after the flagrant foul or something. I think that’s when it was.
“I grabbed him by his shirt as hard as I’ve ever grabbed any player. I think I’ve only grabbed three players in 30 years, but I grabbed him by by his shirt and was screaming at him because I’m talking to my players about what we’re going to do. And I’m really good at math, and I counted one, two, three, four. My big fella is standing over there — my man was checking the crowd out. Now, he’s in the game. So I grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him over there. So if anybody sees that I assaulted somebody I’m asking for forgiveness before you guys accuse me of doing it. But then Theo said that I could grab him, and I told him, I said, I’ve wanted to grab you a lot, too, but I’ve never done it. But the bench was big for us, yes.”
Duke Head Coach Mike Kryzyzewski said of the game, “Well, it was a really physical game, and congratulations to North Carolina. You know, we’ve had three really good games against one another in a short period of time. Kind of a disjointed game. It was kind of a weird game tonight.
“But the turnovers hurt us, and their offensive rebounds. We’re not going to win a game against a team that caliber if we turned it over 18 times.
“We learned a lot here. We played two really good games, two really good teams, and we know we can play better. I’m proud of my guys. I thought in the last six minutes they showed an incredible will to win against a very, very good basketball team. We had a chance. We had a chance, but we’ve got to do that a little bit earlier.”
Krzyzewski said of their defense, which held Carolina to 39.4 percent (28-71) shooting, “74 points is okay against them. If we don’t turn it over 18 times — we’re not going to — you’re trying to limit their threes. If we were playing man and they shot 18 out of 24 from three, then you’d be asking why didn’t you defend the three better. But holding them to 74 points was good. They’re one of the explosive teams, as explosive as anybody. And they have two kids that can really handle the ball well in the middle of the zone in Pinson and Maye. So that’s good for us.
“The two games we played here, (Bonzie) Colson (of Notre Dame) can do that, too, so we got a chance to work our zone against probably two of the best teams that would work against us, and we gave up 70 and 74 points. So we’ll take a look at it and see what we can learn from that, but overall that should have been good enough to win if we don’t turn it over like we did.
“One of the key things is these long rebounds. So they got 18 (offensive rebounds), I think. Yeah, they had 18. That’s the other stat that hurt us. Again, they’ve got to do that better. But overall, it wasn’t bad. The zone wasn’t bad. The offense was bad. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.
Coach K said of what he learned most about his team as they head into the NCAA Tournament next week, “Yeah, I just think the experience, one, playing against a desperate, old, really good team in Notre Dame, and being we were really ready for the tournament, and I thought we played really well last night. Even to play the second game where you have just a 20-minute warmup, those kids haven’t — Grayson has gone through it, but I’m not blaming it on them, I’m just saying it’s different, and that’s what can happen in the NCAA Tournament. You can play the first game or the second game. You’ll get about 30 minutes then. And then you’re playing at 9:30 or 9:45 or whatever, it’s different. So you learn from those experiences. That’s the whole year for us is there’s so many new things for these guys, and playing against two top-quality opponents. Winning and then — I thought we got off to a bad start, not that we weren’t ready. I thought that we weren’t physical enough.
“Kind of like in the first half against Notre Dame where you — the game is physical. I’m not saying they’re fouls. It’s physical inside. So you have to do more than try to get your shot off because you’re going to — there’s bumping in that, not necessarily fouls but there’s bumping, and so you have to — yesterday in the second half, we did a great job of that. And today at the start of the game, we did not, and then ^ Treton got hurt, there were disruptions. It was kind of a weird thing.
“And then we kind of played the game in different stages today, and we have to play it at the same stage throughout. It’s just maturing. It’s our 33rd game, and these kids have won 26, and they’ve been really good, and they have a will to win. They just hopefully will get a few good days of practice, hopefully Trey (Trevon Duval) is not — the X-rays are negative, we got that done right away, and we can get healthy and then move on.
“Everyone is 0-0 starting next week, so that’s the way we’re looking at it. I think we’re much better prepared for the NCAA Tournament than we were a month ago, and these two games will help us, even though we lost tonight and could have played better. But they make you not play well. They’re very good. They did a good job against us.”