Skip to content

North Carolina loses to Duke, but it’s not all bad news for the Tar Heels

Feb 13, 2013, 11:40 PM EDT

North Carolina v Duke Getty Images

North Carolina fans aren’t accustomed to seeing their team rack up moral victories, and rightfully so. When you’re one of the nation’s most storied basketball programs, a team that has sent countless players to the NBA and has won two of the last seven national titles, looking for the bright side of a loss isn’t normal.

But this year’s version of the Tar Heels is not a normal North Carolina team.

They’re young. They’re still learning how to play. They don’t have stars in the spots where you normally expect North Carolina to have stars.

And thus, after watching the Tar Heels waste a double-digit first half lead against arch-nemesis Duke on the road, losing 73-68, I’m not walking away thinking that life in Chapel Hill is over.

The last time we saw North Carolina play, they were getting dominated by No. 3 Miami in Miami. The Hurricanes jumped out to an early lead, hitting 15 threes and throwing alley-oops off the back board en route to an 87-61 win in front of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It was, pure and simple, an embarrassment.

Wednesday wasn’t.

In fact, if the Tar Heels didn’t miss six straight free throws in the second half, this would have been a very different basketball game.

For what feels like the first time since they hosted UNLV back in December, North Carolina was active and aggressive on defense. They jumped out to a 28-18 lead on the Blue Devils not simply because of a hot shooting start, but because they played as tough a brand of basketball as we’ve seen this season. They forced turnovers, they got a hand in the face of shooters and they forced Mason Plumlee to catch the ball 16 feet away from the basket. They took the Blue Devils out of any rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.

It didn’t last, as Plumlee and Quinn Cook both combined for 18 points while Tyler Thornton’s hot-hand in the second half sparked the game-changing surge.

But then again, not many people even expected North Carolina to keep the game this close. Be honest: did you really think that the Heels would have a chance to win at Cameron Indoor Stadium before this game began?

There is some talent on the UNC roster. There aren’t a lot of great teams in the country this season. With the ACC in the midst of a down-season, there are plenty of games to be won in the ACC.

The Tar Heels still should make the NCAA tournament. They still have a chance to make some noise in March. And seeing them play this way should give some confidence — both to the fans, the players and the coaching staff — that this season can get better.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Rutgers lands impact junior college forward

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Wisconsin v Rutgers Getty Images

    Rutgers added a potential starter for next season on Monday.

  2. N.C. State lands commitment from athletic 2015 forward

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Temple v North Carolina State Getty Images

    N.C. State landed a surprise commitment from an athletic 2015 forward on Monday night.

  3. Report: NCAA rules committee could change men’s basketball to 30-second shot clock

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice Getty Images

    The NCAA is considering moving the shot clock to 30 seconds in men’s basketball.

  4. Duke lands five-star Class of 2015 wing Brandon Ingram

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Getty Images) (Kelly Kline/Getty Images)

    Duke picked up its second major commitment in recent weeks with the addition of five-star wing Brandon Ingram.

  5. Seven takeaways from the AAU weekend at Nike EYBL, UAA and adidas Gauntlet

    Apr 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/adidas) (Kelly Kline/adidas)

    Here’s seven takeaways from a busy weekend at the three shoe company events.

  6. Top ten recruit Jayson Tatum dunks on defender (VIDEO)

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Tatum might be the best player in the Class of 2016.

  7. Field for the 2015 Veterans Classic announced

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    It will feature a preseason top five team.

  8. College basketball’s seven biggest early entry losers for the 2015-2016 season

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:48 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who were the biggest losers of the early entry deadline?

  9. College basketball’s six biggest early entry winners for the 2015-2016 season

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Which potential draft picks returning to school will be the most influential in 2015-16?

  10. Austin Hatch’s inspirational basketball career has come to a close

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:17 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Hatch is one of the most inspirational people you will ever hear about

  11. UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Marcus Paige (Getty Images) Getty Images

    The return of Buddy Hield pushes previously unranked Oklahoma into our way too early rankings.

  12. 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who’s going pro? Who’s returning to school? Who are we still waiting to hear from?

  13. Texas A&M adds former USF point guard, eligible immediately

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Collins averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, and his arrival could lead to Alex Caruso getting more scoring opportunities off the ball.

  14. Alcorn State announces hiring of Montez Robinson as head coach

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT

    Bethune-Cookman Athletics Bethune-Cookman Athletics

    Robinson has quite the rebuilding job on his hands, but guard LeAntwan Luckett (16.3 ppg) is one of the team’s top four scorers who have eligibility remaining.

  15. Former Arizona State signee headed to Washington

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Dominic Green was released from his National Letter of Intent to Arizona State a couple weeks ago.

  16. New NCAA VP of Division I governance wants to take closer look at graduate ‘transfer’ rules

    Apr 26, 2015, 6:02 PM EDT

    NCAA_Logo AP

    In addition to making graduates sit out a year, there’s also consideration of the idea that schools can restrict where they can go.

  17. Top 100 point guard headed to Iowa State

    Apr 26, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT

    Fred Hoiberg Fred Hoiberg

    Nick Noskowiak joins former Arkansas guard Nick Babb as players who have committed to Iowa State this month.

  18. Kennesaw State hires former Boston College head coach Al Skinner

    Apr 26, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    Skinner_web

    Skinner was the longtime coach of Boston College.