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  • With the Blue Devils and Tar Heels set to renew their rivalry on Wednesday night, we looked back at some of their best showdowns in history.
By Tristan Jung
February 19, 2019

Duke vs. North Carolina is the most prominent rivalry in college basketball. In terms of intensity, scope and quality, each Duke-Carolina game usually provides the best the sport has to offer. You may hate one or both teams, but it’s hard to not watch or not pay attention to them.

Before the Blue Devils and Tar Heels look to add a new chapter in the first of two 2019 regular season showdowns on Wednesday night, we looked back at some of the most memorable games in the history of the rivalry, compiling the best 10 of the series (in chronological order). Because both Duke and UNC are usually very good, most of the games are close and dramatic. Thus, there were many classic games that missed the cut. Without further ado:

The Top 10 Rivalries in College Basketball History

1968: Duke 87, UNC 86 (3OT): The Fred Lind Game

In a plot straight out of Hollywood, little-used backup forward Fred Lind led the Blue Devils to a stunning triple-overtime win at what was then called Duke Indoor Stadium. Lind had scored 21 points in his entire career, but he came off the bench to score 16 points (including a buzzer beater to force the third overtime) and make the game-ending block. After the game, Duke students carried Lind out of the building and paraded him to the main quad.

1974: UNC 96, Duke 92 (OT): 8 points in 17 seconds

In 1974, No. 4 UNC hosted Duke at Carmichael Stadium. The Blue Devils were underdogs, but they dominated most of the game and eventually held an eight-point lead with 17 seconds remaining. A Tar Heel comeback seemed impossible. There was no three-point line, so UNC needed four baskets in 17 seconds to tie the game. After Bobby Jones cut it to six at the line, Duke completely imploded, committing two turnovers and missing the front end of a one-and-one. UNC tied the game with a buzzer-beating shot from Walter Davis and then won 96–92 after overtime. To this day, it’s one of the most improbable comebacks in college basketball history.

1979: Duke 47, UNC 40: The Invention of the Airball Chant

This game featured one of the most boring halves in NCAA basketball history. Before the game, Dean Smith decided he would run the “four corners” offense for the entire game. In an age with no shot clock, this meant UNC could simply hold the ball and refuse to let Duke take a shot. The first half ended 7–0. It also featured the first-ever recorded appearance of the famous “AIR-BALL!” chant in college basketball, after UNC’s Rich Yonakor, against orders, decided to take a mid-range jumper. It missed everything.

UNC’s only other shot of the half was an airball, and thus the famous fan tactic was born. Duke eventually won 47–40, inspiring an annoyed Bill Foster to say: “I thought Naismith invented basketball, not Dean Smith.”

1984 UNC 96, Duke 83 (2OT): Michael Jordan’s final home game

In the final home game for Sam Perkins, Matt Doherty and Michael Jordan, UNC and Duke played a double-overtime classic in Chapel Hill.

Doherty hit a game-tying shot for UNC to force overtime, and then Perkins and Jordan dominated the second overtime to earn UNC a famous win. However, Duke would get its revenge a week later in the ACC tournament, snapping the Tar Heels’ six-game winning streak in the rivalry with a 77–75 win.

Dormant College Hoops Rivalries We Want to See Renewed

1989: UNC 77, Duke 74: ACC Title Game

The Duke-Carolina rivalry has always been heated, but one could argue it peaked 30 years ago as both teams clearly hated each other’s guts. This was the year of the infamous “J.R. Can’t Read” sign, which then prompted Dean Smith to tell the media that Reid and teammate Scott Williams’s SAT scores were higher than Danny Ferry’s and Christian Laettner’s. Coach K and Smith were both angry before and during the ACC title game, which would’ve torn social media apart if it had existed at the time.

The game itself was a mess. North Carolina led most of the way and eventually won 77–74 in a game that featured 49 fouls.

1995: UNC 102, Duke 100 (OT): Jeff Capel’s buzzer beater

Mike Krzyzewski took 1994–95 off due to his lingering back injury, and Duke struggled in his absence. But on Feb. 2, Duke played a remarkable game against a UNC team featuring Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Jeff McInnis at Cameron Indoor. The game was a back-and-forth contest and went to double-overtime courtesy of a famous half-court heave from current Pitt coach Jeff Capel.

UNC took a 100–98 lead in double overtime after a Donald Williams layup. McInnis sealed the win by stealing the ensuing inbounds pass.

2004: Duke 83, UNC 81 (OT): Roy vs. Coach K

Feb. 4, 2004 marked the beginning of a new phase of the rivalry as Roy Williams and Krzyzewski faced off for the first time. No. 17 UNC was an underdog to a No. 1 Duke team that had Luol Deng and J.J. Redick. But the Tar Heels refused to go away. Jawad Williams hit a three to send the game to overtime and Rashad McCants hit another three to potentially force double-overtime at 81–81. But then, Chris Duhon went coast-to-coast and made a stunning reverse layup with 6.5 seconds left, ensuring Krzyzewski would draw first blood in this new era of the rivalry.

2005: UNC 75, Duke 73: UNC wins its first outright regular season title since 1993

On March 6, 2005, UNC was absolutely desperate for a win. It was the second year of the Roy Williams era, and UNC was finally in position to win the regular season title outright for the first time in 12 years. A record crowd showed up for Senior Night, but Duke predictably came to play and kept the game close for 33 minutes. Duke went on a big run to go up 73–64 with 3:07 remaining. Then, the Tar Heels made one of their most satisfying comebacks in history.

The win was sealed when Marvin Williams tipped in Raymond Felton’s missed free throw. J.J. Redick missed a three to win and UNC celebrated a cathartic win at the Dean Dome.

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2012: Duke 85, UNC 84: Zeller’s accidental tip in and Austin Rivers’s game-winner

This loss is pure pain for Tar Heel fans. No. 5 North Carolina hosted No. 9 Duke in a critical game for ACC supremacy. UNC led for most of the second half and held a 10-point lead with 2:09 remaining. Then things went haywire. Duke hit two threes, and then UNC center Tyler Zeller accidentally tipped a Duke three into his own basket. Austin Rivers then drilled a buzzer-beating three to give Duke a stunning victory.

At least UNC fans can take solace that Duke lost to Lehigh later that year.

2015: Duke 92, UNC 90 (OT)

Duke’s national title run in 2015 featured two wins over UNC. The first win was a true instant classic in Cameron Indoor, held just after the passing of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith. After both teams held a moment of silence, they played an emotional and dramatic game filled with huge runs. UNC went on a 41–18 run in the second half and found itself up 10 with four minutes left, but Duke came back to tie it at 81 apiece and then win in overtime.

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