DURHAM, N.C.- "He picked the perfect time" are the words from senior leader Garrison Brooks about freshman Caleb Love. Love stole the show from the opening act helping the Tar Heels secure their first win over Duke, 91-87. Saturday night's game is the highest-scoring matchup between the rivals in twelve years.
Only eleven miles separate the two dominant programs and has been dubbed one of, if not the best, rivalries in college sports. Saturday night's game is the first time since 1960 where both teams were unranked; Roy Williams was only nine years old. After tonight, UNC is 38-46 at Cameron, but it's worth noting that North Carolina leads the series, 140-114.
The freshman has struggled this season finding his confidence in Chapel Hill; late-night shots, after game practice, and meditation, Love was determined, but it's something about Duke that will bring the best out of you.
"Being part of one of the biggest rivalries in college basketball, if not the best, we knew we had to bring our energy; there's no fan but it felt like fans because of how hard we were playing and into the game. We were just locked in and got the win."
As a team, the Heels had a big night shooting their season-high from the three at 67% and their second-best shooting night at 53%. The Tar Heels had six scorers in double digits, Day'ron Sharpe (11), Garrison Brooks (12), Leaky Black (12), Kerwin Walton (12), and Armando Bacot (16), but it was Caleb Love whose name is being sung in high praise. Love scored a season-high of 25 points and led the team in assists with seven.
Despite the significant win, Williams still wants to fine-tune the details. Love's scoring effort didn't go unnoticed, but it was the turnovers that Williams need correcting. The position of point guard weighs heavy at Carolina, and five turnovers will not cut it.
"We hurt ourselves so much with the turnovers (16) in the first half in addition to hurting ourselves with their 11 points and offensive rebounds to our four. The biggest message during halftime was to clean up those two areas. Let's do a better job."
Duke faced a tough night with Matthew Hurt predominately quiet. The sophomore forward finished the game with seven points and fouled out the competition late in the second half. Almost mirroring UNC, it was Duke's young backcourt that kept the Blue Devils within reach; Jeremy Roach (16), Wendell Moore, Jr. (15), and Jalen Johnson (14). Duke has now dropped five of their last seven.
The Heels have a quick turnaround with a Monday game against Miami at 7 pm on ESPN.