Feb. 7, 2006
I've said many times that the North Carolina-Duke games are part of the best rivalry in all of sports. Tuesday night in Chapel Hill lived up to that billing.
In the end, a great team found its way to the winner's circle. Duke earned a hard-fought 87-83 victory thanks to another outstanding performance by J.J. Redick, who finished with 35 points. His previous high at Chapel Hill was 17, and the Dukies needed his scoring ability in this one.
I really felt that, down the stretch, some of the Duke players were watching Redick instead of getting into the action. I also have to give a lot of credit to Carolina's defense for containing Shelden Williams inside.
Duke has now prevailed in three straight Maalox Mashers -- first at Boston College, then in overtime at home against Florida State, now at North Carolina.
The Tar Heels showed great resiliency, coming back from a 17-point deficit. Coach Roy Williams made a brilliant coaching move, pulling five players off the court and putting in reserves to provide a major spark. Suddenly, North Carolina made a 22-point turnaround, aided by a strong run by the reserves, plus a rejuvenated starting group, and took a five-point lead.
This is a very young Tar Heels squad, but it didn't show because they did a great job on the boards, dominating inside. North Carolina also got solid performances from veterans Reyshawn Terry and David Noel.
Roy Williams is my choice for ACC Coach of the Year, and this game is another reason why. Think about North Carolina without its top seven scorers from a year ago! This year's squad scrapped and clawed and went to the wire with the Dukies. This Tar Heels club has already won 14 games when many naysayers predicted tough times. I feel they can make some noise come NCAA Tournament time, as well.
The bottom line was North Carolina played its heart out, but Redick and Co. made the eight-mile drive home down Tobacco Road with a big W!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.