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. Donovan family thanks Florida fan base in full-page ad

    May 24, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    150524_Donovan Getty Images

    The last two decades were a special time for the Donovan family, who thanked the supporters who helped make it all possible.

  2. Pitt lands graduate transfer big man from Richmond

    May 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    alonzo nelson-ododa Getty Images

    Pitt added a big man who can play right away next season.

  3. Class of 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson faces five-star guard Seventh Woods at UAA (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    2014 Under Armour Association Finals

    Two of the best in the 2016 class battle in the Under Armour Association.

  4. Academic issues expected to sideline St. John’s point guard for fall semester, maybe longer

    May 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150524_Jordan_Rysheed Getty Images

    Already thin at the point, the situation becomes even tougher for first-year head coach Chris Mullin if this turns out to be the case.

  5. Former Providence center planning visits

    May 23, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A Big 12 and a Big Ten program are among those due who have reached out to the 7-foot-2 Fairfield Prep (Connecticut) product.

  6. Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production

    May 23, 2015, 7:32 PM EDT

    Tad Boyle AP

    Colorado’s Tad Boyle doesn’t like the proposed shot clock change, and he made a good point about the physical nature of college basketball today.

  7. UC Davis, head coach Jim Les agree to contract extension through 2021

    May 23, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    Jim Les Jim Les

    Les led the Aggies to a school-record (Division I era) 25 wins and their first Big West regular season title last season.

  8. Four-star 2015 power forward to visit Cal, Texas and Washington

    May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Noah Dickerson had previously committed to Georgetown and Florida.

  9. Max Bielfeldt down to three

    May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Wolverine could remain in the Big Ten.

  10. Frank Kaminsky writes a farewell letter to Wisconsin fans

    May 23, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150523_Kaminsky Getty Images

    The Wisconsin big man averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his last two seasons.

  11. Derrick Walton’s foot appears to be better (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The sophomore guard missed the final 12 games of the season.

  12. Rashad Muhammad transferring from San Jose State

    May 23, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    AP AP

    He is the younger brother of former UCLA Bruin Shabazz Muhammad.

  13. Nevada lands transfer forward from the Ivy League

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    image Getty Images

    Nevada landed an impact transfer that could help at guard after next season.

  14. Arizona announces 2015-16 non-conference schedule

    May 22, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Arizona will have some intriguing home-and-home games to go along with an in-season tournament.

  15. Cliff Alexander opens up on his suspension at Kansas

    May 22, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Cliff Alexander might have returned for his sophomore season if the NCAA had not been involved.

  16. Kentucky promotes former Auburn coach to assistant coach

    May 22, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Tony Barbee AP

    Kentucky promoted a familiar face for the open assistant spot.

  17. Class of 2016 forward decommits from Nebraska

    May 22, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    keanu pinder

    Nebraska loses a commitment who could be headed elsewhere soon.

  18. Georgia, Mark Fox agree to contract extension through 2020

    May 22, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Mark Fox AP

    Fox has led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournament appearances in his six years as head coach, including last season’s 21-win team.

  19. Former Bradley guard to complete eligibility at Rutgers

    May 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Darius Carter, Zach Brown, Omari Grier AP

    The Rutgers perimeter rotation may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room for contributions as the team won just ten games last season.