Men’s Final Four: North Carolina downs Duke to reach the national championship game!
New Orleans, Louisiana - The most storied rivalry in men’s college basketball was featured in the second Final Four matchup of Saturday night between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils.
The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils 81-77 to claim their place in Monday night’s national championship game, the 12th trip there in the program’s history.
Right from the opening tip, the game was the close, hard-fought battle that everyone expected it to be.
In 20 minutes of game time, there were three lead changes and five ties, and neither team led by more than six during the first half.
The Tar Heels had control of the game through the first ten minutes, but then the momentum shifted just enough towards the Blue Devils as they took a three-point lead into halftime.
North Carolina broke out in the second half, firing at will with a quick rush that gave them a small four-point lead.
And there were seven more ties and 17 more lead changes, making things extra thrilling.
Towards the end of all that battling, a huge three-pointer in the final seconds by the Tar Heels ended up putting the Blue Devils’ season away for good.
The player spotlight
Caleb Love (20) was the star of the show, taking the game over in the second half and carrying the Tar Heels to a well-deserved win.
In the last three tournament games, Love has scored 70 points in each second half he’s played.
For this game, he only scored six points in the first half, but then kicked it up a notch with 22 points in the second half, including the late three-pointer along with three free throws that sealed the win for North Carolina.
Love finished the game with 11-for-20 shooting overall from the field for a game-high 28 points, four rebounds, and one assist.
The big picture
Out of 258 meetings between both programs, this was the first time that both of these legendary teams met in the NCAA tournament – and it was one for the ages.
For Duke, legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski, affectionately called "Coach K" throughout his 42-year career, has now coached his last game. As the winningest coach in men’s college basketball, Coach K's 1,202 victories and 13 Final Four appearances – the most of any coach – are a record that probably won’t be broken for quite a while.
And it was rather fitting that the final game was in the tournament against his biggest rival.
For the Tar Heels, Hubert Davis is the fourth first-year coach to appear in a national title game.
With a win on Monday night, he would be leading his team to the school’s seventh national championship.
The 2022 NCAA Men’s National Championship game will feature the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire