NEW ORLEANS (WGHP) — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has emerged victorious in the “Battle of the Blue Bloods” and will go on to play Kansas in the National Championship Game.
Both teams came out tight in the first half, the intensity of the moment weighed on both teams.
Both teams struggled from three-point range, Duke University shooting two-of-12 from long range and UNC shooting three-of-13 from that distance.
Sophomore guard RJ Davis carried the torch for the Tar Heels in the first half contributing 14 points on five-of-seven shooting from the field.
Freshman forward Paolo Banchero was the star of the first half for the Blue Devils with 10 points two of which came on a thunderous highlight slam.
Duke Sophomore center Mark Williams got into early foul trouble picking up a quick two, forcing Mike Krzyzewski to bring in senior forward Theo John and play him extended minutes.
This was problematic as John quickly racked up four fouls in the first half alone leaving him only more foul away from being disqualified from the contest.
UNC star big man Armondo Bacot also found himself in early foul trouble picking up a quick two fouls as well.
Duke led 37-34 at the end of the first half after dominating the battle of points scored in the paint.
After falling down by seven points at the beginning of the second half, UNC went on a scorching 13-zero run to take a 47-41 lead with 15:56 remaining in the game. The run was sparked primarily by sophomore guard Caleb Love who scored 10 of the Tar Heels’ 13 points throughout the run.
The Blue Devils were not rattled though and responded with a 14-seven run of their own to get the game back to a 55-55 draw with 10:53 left.
UNC would respond with a small rally of their own taking a 62-57 lead with 7:42 remaining.
Bacot appeared to roll his ankle and was forced to exit the game with 5:18 remaining and Duke holding a 67-65 lead. He had a game-leading 19 rebounds and 11 points.
Bacot refused to watch from the sidelines and emerged from the tunnel with 4:38 remaining to check back into the game with it tied 67-67.
The two blue bloods engaged in back and forth competitive basketball, a Paolo Banchero three gave the Blue Devils a 74-73 with 1:18 remaining.
A pair of Davis free throws gave the Tar Heels a 75-74 advantage with 1:01 remaining
Bacot battling through his injury fouled with :47 remaining finishing with 11 points and 21 rebounds in a valiant effort.
Williams missed a crucial pair of free throws for Duke after the Bacot foul, setting up a Love three-pointer with :28 remaining to give UNC a 78-74 lead.
A quick Jeremy Roach layup for Duke made it 78-76 with :21 remaining and the free throw game began.
Three of four made free throws from Love was all it took for the Tar Heels to secure the 81-77 win and advance to the National Championship.
Love wound up the hero of the day for UNC finishing the game with 28 points.