What an amazing and joyous victory it was for Duke last evening over arch rival North Carolina. It was an explosion of joy for the Blue Devils faithful as Austin Rivers became an instant legend and his exploits will be shown for a long time to come. Here are my random thoughts and chatter this morning, so strap in and read ahead -
Sir Austin Rivers shot will be remembered for a long time to come
Players can live a lifetime and not have a storybook finish to a game, but Duke freshman Austin Rivers knocked down a three point shot as the buzzer sounded over the outstretched arms of Tyler Zeller to give Duke a 85-84 win over North Carolina. The shot was a dagger to the heart of North Carolina and Zeller who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. One fan exclaimed, “Cry me a Rivers,” as the freshman sensation stunned and silenced the North Carolina crowd as the ball dropped perfectly through the net as the red light and buzzer went off. In the backdrop, the Duke players rushed onto the court after Rivers as their parents kissed, hugged and high fiving behind the Duke bench. Duke played with heart tonight, but Rivers was the heart of that heart. It’s a given that he’ll be named the ACC Rookie of the Week for the seventh time this season and his performance will now have the media thinking All ACC. Rivers knocked down an amazing 6 of 10 three pointers for a career-high 29 points, the highest point total by a Blue Devil this season and the highest by a ACC freshman. Rivers scored 16 points of his points in the second half. His shot is being shown on ESPN Sports Center every five minutes and was of course the Play of the Day. Do you think a few folks will be talking about Rivers around the water cooler tomorrow or on Sports Center tomorrow? You betcha! It was a really big shot in so many ways and it made for a happy fan base. “Obviously this is my favorite win I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Rivers said.
The Blue Devils were down 13 points before outscoring North Carolina 15-4 including the last 11 points of the game. Duke hung in the game as the Tar Heels controlled almost all of the half and good things happened. With 2:33 left in the game Duke outscored North Carolina 13-2 hitting 5 of 7 field goals including 2 of 5 from beyond the three point stripe. The Duke defense cause two late turnovers while protecting the ball during the stretch and amazingly, the Tar Heels were never allowed a single shot in that time. It was one of the most amazing comebacks in the rivalries history.
Back in the saddle again
Just when it looked like Duke would be tied for fourth in the ACC standings by there next game against Maryland, a victory over their arch rival put them in a three way tie for first. After losses to Miami and Florida State at home, winning the conference seemed like a pipe dream but it suddenly looks within reach again. Duke also won their 20th game of the season against 4 losses and if they win Saturday in their new Nike uniforms, they’ll surely move up in the rankings and ahead of North Carolina.
Ryan Kelly cool down the stretch
Ryan Kelly tallied 15 points, 10 of those coming in the second half. Kelly scored eight points in the final 7:05, showing great poise on a short-range jumper with 14 seconds that cut North Carolina’s lead to one point at 83-82. Kelly had his three point shot tipped in for s deuce, missed another three and recovered for the aforementioned jumper in the corner. He made just one of his three point shot, but that was a big one on a night when every play seemed big for the table as the game ended in a joyous celebration for Duke.
Emotion. Without it you cannot win. Rivers shot, all in one motion broke the hearts of the thousands of Tar Heel fans packed into the Dean Dome, leaving the North Carolina players and staff in disbelief while sending the Blue Devils into a frenzy of emotion. This Duke team had lost two games at home and been sold short on having a chance in this game by everybody so it is no wonder that Coach Krzyzewski showed grand emotion as did his staff. Krzzyzewski had another one of those leaps, like he did when Nolan Smith came off the court when Duke defeated North Carolina in the ACC Tournament a season ago which makes it two in a row now for Duke in the series. As the buzzer sounded, Krzyzewski jumped into the air, one arm raised, Chris Collins doing the same beside him and Chris Spatola doing a high jump split as they watched their team rush the court after Rivers. Kryzyzewski proceeds to go down the court knowing he’d just seen an amazing feat as Collins makes another jump with the number one finger held high. Then Collins skies again while the refs arms are still in the air for a made three. By that time Wojo is into the mix. Then Krzyzewski has one jump left in him and there goes Collins again like the Energizer Bunny as his boss looks over at his players celebrating as he then goes on to shake Coach Williams hand. Okay, you caught me. I slowed the tape down on a shot of the bench after “the” shot. But wasn’t that fun?
You want more don’t you?
After Rivers knocks down the shot, he turns in that way I have seen many times on the AAU circuit, arms down, hands popped back as he runs back down to the other side of the court. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind. Andre Dawkins was the first to get to him as Rivers jumped in his arms. I can hear Nolan Smith say #pause right now after that statement but bare with me … Then Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Ryan Kelly, Alex Murphy, Todd Zaforovski and Michel Gbinje followed by Miles Plumlee as the players knocked a smiling River to the floor. Whew! I got a little giddy there didn’t I?
More statistical tidbits
So Duke gets outscored in the paint by a 42-14 margin, but they dominate the outside scoring outscoring the Tar Heels 42 to 3 from beyond the stripe. Duke wins the points off turnovers by a 12-8 margin as well and win the battle of second chance points by a 17-12 margin. Duke also held the North Carolina bench to a mere 6 points while getting 15 from their own. And finally, Duke had it’s larges lead of 8 points at the 15:06 mark in the 1st half while two ticks later art 15:08 in the 2nd half, UNC held their largest lead of 13 points.
Bob Harris gets some ESPN burn
I was so happy to see that ESPN was playing my pal, Duke play by play announcer Bob Harris calling the final seconds as Austin Rivers drove a stake in the his opponents heart. It was another classic called by Harris who wants you to buy his book. So do it already.
Did you know that …
Duke has now won two of the last three meetings in the Dean Smith Center. When the first Duke-North Carolina meeting of the season occurs in Chapel Hill, Duke is 5-0 since Roy Williams took over as head coach at North Carolina. With the win, Duke improved to 15-0 when playing after a loss since February, 2009. North Carolina won the battle in the paint, scoring 42 points down low to Duke’s 12, but the Blue Devils won the perimeter matchup and scored 42 points on three-pointers to North Carolina’s three. Rivers hit a career-high six three-pointers for Duke while Seth Curry hit four. Duke led for a total of 15:40 in the first half. Beginning at the 16:48 mark in the half, Duke did not relinquish its lead until the Tar Heels tied the game 39-39 with 1:19 remaining. The Tar Heels took a 43-40 lead into halftime, and Duke did not lead again until the end of the game after Rivers’ game-winning three-pointer.
ESPN Instant Classic and Play of the Day
You can cath this game again by looking at your local ESPN listings as it was given immediate Instant Classic status. Austin Rivers shot is running pretty much everywhere you turn as well. Watching the replay you would swear Duke doesn’t have a chance in Hades according to the announcers but they were then stunned just like the rest of us in one of the most amazing comeback wins in Duke history. And of course, Hubert Davis, Stuart Scott and Jalen Rose shed a few tears behind the scenes as most talking heads ate a bit of crow sandwich.