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Caleb Love’s Dagger Three Helps UNC Down Duke in Instant Classic, Send Coach K Into Retirement

In one of the most anticipated NCAA tournament games of all time, No. 8 seed North Carolina knocked off No. 2 seed Duke 81–77 to end the historic career of Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.

It’s rare that a game with this much buildup lives up to the hype, but Carolina and Duke treated college basketball fans to an absolute thriller. The national semifinal featured 18 lead changes, a 21-rebound performance from UNC forward Armando Bacot, and unbelievable shot making in the final minutes of the contest.

With North Carolina leading 75–74 with less than a minute to play, Duke forward Mark Williams missed a pair of free throws that would have given the Blue Devils the lead. Following the second miss, Carolina sprinted up the floor with a one-point lead, and Tar Heels guard Caleb Love hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, which proved to be the dagger. 

Love finished with 28 points on 11-for-20 shooting, but that triple was one of just three makes from beyond the arc for him on the night. Love finished a paltry 3-for-10 from deep, but made the one that mattered to propel UNC to Monday night’s national championship game.

In total, four out of Carolina’s five starters finished in double-figures, as R.J. Davis scored 18, Brady Maek scored 14, and Armando Bacot added 11 points to his dominant 21 rebound performance.

The story for Duke in this game was quite simple. The Blue Devils scored with the Tar Heels for most of the night, but the poor shooting from three point land and the charity stripe doomed their chances of advancing to the national title game.

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The Blue Devils shot just 22.7% from three and 60% from the free throw line in a game that was lost by four. That simply can’t happen in a game of this magnitude.

Future NBA lottery pick Paolo Banchero led the way in defeat for Duke with 20 points, while Trevor Keels added 19 off the bench for the Blue Devils.

After several years as an assistant under legendary coach Roy Williams, Hubert Davis has taken the Tar Heels to the national championship game in his first season as head coach.

North Carolina will take on No. 1 seed Kansas in Monday night’s national championship after the Jayhawks knocked off Villanova 81–65 in Saturday’s first national semifinal contest.

Monday night’s national championship game will tip off at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS.

Sports Illustrated’s Coach K Coverage: