CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Duke and North Carolina delivered again.
The basketball juggernauts proved that when they get together, you can expect the unexpected. What transpires at times might not make much sense, but at least it is usually thrilling.
That was definitely the case Wednesday night in Duke's shocking 85-84 buzzer-beating victory over the No. 5 Tar Heels in a stunned Dean Dome.
Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, came up huge (29 points) and drained the final 3-pointer, securing a win that, for most of the second half, seemed highly improbable.
It certainly appeared the Tar Heels were well on track to win with their largest lead at 57-44 with 15:08 to play. The building was in a frenzy, and Duke was on the ropes.
At one point, UNC had put together a 47-29 stretch of hoops that was positively breathtaking. During the run, the Heels displayed what makes them so incredibly difficult to defend.
But UNC, sometimes questioned about its toughness, failed to put its foot on Duke's throat. The game hovered around the 10-point mark until just 129 seconds remained. That is when the Blue Devils made their final move.
A 3-pointer by Tyler Thornton, a 3 by Curry, a soft baseline jumper by junior forward Ryan Kelly and another jumper by Kelly brought the Devils to within 83-82 with 14 seconds left.
UNC senior Tyler Zeller made just one of two free throws, and just before the horn sounded, Duke's Rivers hit his amazing 3-pointer for the win.
As Duke's players stormed the floor, convening in a royal blue pile opposite UNC's bench, the Tar Heels and their legion of fans stood in total disbelief. Duke had just stolen one right out from under the Tar Heels' nose, although the players emphasized it was no fluke.
"We won, we won," Duke junior center Mason Plumlee said. "That [was] no lucky shot."
UNC point guard Kendall Marshall agreed with his rival.
"I don't want to say they stole it," he said, with red in his eyes. "They made winning plays to win the game."
Plumlee added, "Coach always talks about like a boxer, you don't win every round. For us, we didn't win every round, but we were at our best at the end, and that's a heck of a win."