UNC fans eager for a rematch against rival Duke
- Author: Julie Sanders Mar 06, 2017,
Mar 06, 2017, 6:59
For the Tar Heels, the latest back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire installment of college basketball's best, most intense rivalry was first and foremost, an exercise in redemption.
Berry scored a game-high 28 points as the No. 5 Tar Heels pulled away in the final four minutes to beat rival Duke 90-83 on Saturday night at the Smith Center. The Tar Heels' Joel Berry didn't miss any of his five three-point tries and piled up 28 propulsive points of his own.
Motivated to avenge a previous loss this season to Duke and avoid a sixth loss in seven games against the Blue Devils, fifth-ranked North Carolina delivered one of its best efforts of the season.
Carolina made it a point early on to pound the ball inside, especially to senior forward Isaiah Hicks, who did not play in the first meeting because of a hamstring injury. But this time it was different. Not only was Hicks in the lineup but it was Senior Night, giving him more incentive to be active and energized. Kennard established himself as one of the best players in the nation this season, averaging 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 45.0 percent from the 3-point line.
Most of all, though, there was redemption for a team that saw its chances for victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium slip away on February 9 by going the final three minutes without making a field goal.
North Carolina also dominated the interior. They were on a four-game winning streak with all of those wins coming by double digits. Overall, the Blue Devils outrebounded the Tar Heels, 31-30. Yes, it was a close game, so it makes sense that a player would have been hitting shots when the game was close, but Berry's ability to take control of a basketball game when it matters most was on full display nevertheless.
While Berry's shooting game was on, Jackson's was not. Whenever Duke started to gain some type of momentum, Berry always had an answer with either a three or a superb finish around the rim.
Freshmen guard Gabby Cooper led the team in scoring, totaling 18 points. That, along with the Demon Deacons' win at Virginia Tech on Saturday, moved coach Danny Manning's program onto more solid footing in its pursuit of the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010. They can rely on Jackson.
"On the defensive end, it's hard to guard them man", Berry said, "We did a great job, we didn't just give them a shot, every shot was contested". They can score in transition. And they can win with defense.
The Tar Heels won the outright ACC title before this game thanks to Louisville's win over Notre Dame earlier in the day.