Duke/Carolina — The Running Diary 2009 version

I seem to do this every single year, but I can’t help myself. I never sleep the night before, and while this game has kind of snuck up on me with a truly wild week in sports (Phelps, A-Rod, Alomar and Favre’s retirement 2.0), it’s time for Duke/Carolina once again.

So here I am, with another running diary of the game, with some help from My Buddy Mike, who I think deserves the proper name by now. Mike went to Charlotte, so he’ll be the objective one here. His comments will be in italics while mine will be in normal type.

For a warmup, go here for a preview of the game courtesy of Sanford’s only sports talk radio show, The PODcast. Our preview begins at about the 15-minute mark after some A-Rod talk (we couldn’t help ourselves).


OK, OK, as usual, I’m nervous before a Duke/Carolina game. That will never change. 

I think the game comes down to which team dictates tempo. Duke and Carolina play very contrasting styles, with the Blue Devils wanting to spread the floor, milk the clock and work outside-in. The Tar Heels want to run-and-gun and try to score in the mid-90s.

Here’s the thing: Duke has struggled this season against athletic teams that can run, falling behind by double-digits to Wake Forest (before reasserting its style and almost pulling off the win on the road), and did the exact same thing over the weekend at home against Miami, but got the win. The Devils have also gotten their doors blown off by Clemson.

So that should bode well for Carolina, right?

Not so fast.

UNC has trouble with teams that can couple frontcourt size — to minimize Tyler Hansbrough — with a strong wing player, who can terrorize the Heels from outside. Duke has both, with Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler all capable of being the assassin from outside.

So now you know why I’m nervous.

Because anything can happen.

Outside here in Concord the wind is blowing and soon, inside, the 3s will be raining down. The question is, which team will be putting the 3-ball down tonight? 

If Wayne Ellington can get things rolling from the outside then  Hansbrough should be able to have a big night inside. If the trio of Duke bombers can get hot, I look for the Heels to panic like they have a few times this year so far.

It should be a good night for a basketball fan. I know I will enjoy it — that is, unless this storm takes out the Direct TV dish.

First Half


First thing that pops into my mind as the broadcast begins is that I don’t miss Billy Packer at all.

18:51 Deon Thompson with two jumpers for the Heels? Really? 4-4.

15:48 Duke is very sloppy with the ball, making some bad passes on the perimeter that are easily picked off. The Heels are running, and even though they blow one chippee, they come back and get another thanks to Duke’s lazy passing. 14-6, Heels.

15:48 Thompson has come to play. Weird start to this one tonight. You rarely see a Duke team turn the ball over this much early, especially at home. It looks to me that if they can get into a halfcourt game, Henderson has an advantage against Green. The question will be if they can control the tempo, as Alex mentioned earlier.

Still trying to digest the fact that N.C. State was able to upset Wake Forest tonight. Talk about up and down ball. The Deacons are having an interesting run.

13:12 Big 3 from Bobby Frasor to kill some Duke momentum that was building.
10:52 Unbelievable. I’ll have to retire my “I can’t remember the last time Bobby Frasor hit two jump shots in a single game” line after his two big 3-pointers, putting the Heels up by 10, 28-18.


Both teams seem to be settling into a rhythm now, with Henderson leading Duke and, ahem, The Artist Formerly Known as Deon Thompson, and his 10 unexpected points, pushing Carolina.

Henderson is getting his for the Blue Devils and you figure Hansbrough will eventually get his for the Heels. So far the supporting cast is making the difference with Thompson and Frasor coming up big. Duke is getting no help for Henderson.

9:43 That was a poor shot for Green.That was clearly a “I haven’t gotten to shot yet” shot. With the Paulus 3, that could start a run for Duke.

9:25 Here comes that help. Bad quick 3s by Carolina and Duke responds with 3s from Scheyer and Paulus to make an 11-point game back to five, 29-24.

8:23 Damn. Two fouls within 10 seconds on Hansbrough. Different game now.

8:03 Paulus is showing some of that all-out hustle that Duke fans love and everyone else loves to hate. He dives into the fans to knock away a long pass.

6:53 The Tar Heels are in need of the under 8-timeout.

Yeah, Heaven forbid Roy call one.

6:41 One shot and done for the Heels on offense now, and Duke is finding its pace. Heels look tired and are trailing on defense as the Devils trim it to one, 34-33.

6:22 That’s how quickly a Duke run can come together in Cameron Indoor. Even Thompson can’t stop the run as he has now missed his last two shots.The two fouls on Hansbrough have really opened up the driving lanes for the Devils. They have taken advantage of them with layups and then kicking it out for the open 3 s when the defense tries to go to help Hansbrough. Ed Davis is going to have to give the Heels some big minutes.

5:20 The Devils are flat-out rolling. Paulus hits a bomb and Nolan Smith makes a pretty spin move. All Duke right now.

5:15 Smith makes a much better decision to drive and score vs. taking the bad 3-ball attempt. Duke is on a huge momentum wave right now, but this rivalry has seen many of those shift back and forth at a moment’s notice.

4:52 Heels haven’t scored in more than 3 minutes and Singler buries a jumper. It’s a 22-5 run for Duke. 40-34, Devils.

3:53 We roll into the final official timeout of the first half. If Duke can continue the hot shooting, will we see the Tar Heels have to open the second half in panic mode?

3:41 You can hate him all you want, but Paulus plays his tail off, and usually has his best for Carolina. Another jumper goes down and the Devils lead by four, 42-38.

2:02 Henderson with a 3. He’s the best player on the floor, easily. I love his game. And he’s owning the stage right now with 13 points. 45-40, Duke.

1:50 Wayne Ellington misses another foul shot. Would he like to show up tonight?

1:13 Another 3 for Duke. That’s six already. Same old Heels. 48-41, Duke.

:55 The Tar Heels look rattled. Henderson is certainly getting help now from Singler and Paulus. The 3-balls are falling at a rapid pace for the Devils now. 

1.8 seconds Terrible defense by the Heels. Green gives UNC a lift with a 3 with 34 seconds to go, but the Heels overplay and leave Lance Thomas all alone for the hoop and the harm. It’s 52-44, Duke, at the break.

And the Heels need that break.


Even though the game is being played at UNC’s pace, Duke is getting wide, wide, WIDE open looks. The Devils have made seven 3s and are shooting 62 percent from the floor. Carolina looks tired in sweltering Cameron, and the lack of depth, despite a huge first half from Frasor, seems overwhelming at the break.

The 3-ball has told the story. Sixty-two percent from the field will typically get you a lead at the half and it holds true tonight for the Devils. The Tar Heels managed to get Hansbrough to the half with just the two fouls. We will have to see if his presence can revive the Heels in the second half. Hansbrough or no though, if the Heels can’t stop the 3, this may be a Duke night.

Second Half

19:44 Singler gets whistled for a technical foul after throwing an elbow during a scrum on the floor. Interesting way to start. 

Nothing like a little elbow technical to get the second half good and fired up. Did anyone else notice the camera shot of Stephen A. Smith in the crowd when the officials were reporting the jump ball/technical?

18:33 Duke is just tougher than the Heels right now. Very physical, and it’s working. The Devils are absolutely crashing the boards. 56-48, Duke.

17:06 Three jump balls in less than three minutes. When did a middle school girls’ game break out?

15:44 I believe we are going to get the rarely seen “count the basket/offensive foul call” going into the official timeout. That will make it a two-point ballgame. As ragged as they have looked in spurts, the Tar Heels will have won this first portion of the half. This has all the makings of another classic in this series.

15:33 Lots of hard stuff back and forth. The Heels are beginning to pick up the intensity a bit on the defensive end, trimming the deficit back to two. But then they give up two offensive boards and a bucket, and Duke draws a charge to go the other way. 

13:39 Ty Lawson has gotten to the rim three times in the second half. He has to know he can get there anytime he wants. Singler made a huge step-back 3 as the shot clock was winding down. Duke, 63-60.

12:55 The third foul on Singler is a silly over-the-back call. You typically don’t see Singler do things like that. He has been a major force tonight and will have to take a break now.

10:26 Nice stretch for the Heels, aside from Thompson getting used on the offensive glass by Henderson (who can do that to anybody). Ellington hits a 3, followed by a weird offensive possession that included two offensive boards and ended with a Davis leaner. Heels back in front, 69-65.

10:20 We are going to get a stoppage in play for the wet spot and that will take us to the under-12 TO. Ellington is getting hot. (Won’t he look good in Bobcats orange next year?)

9:10 Um, a dribble-drive by Thompson. 73-67, Heels.

9:10 That Thompson drive was clearly a product of Singler having to play more conservatively with three fouls.

7:56 Duke is still getting fantastic looks at the basket, but the shots just aren’t going down. The thing is, they will before the game is over. Heels need to build some house money.

And they might be able to do it from the foul line. After Thomas misses a chippee off an offensive board, he senselessly fouls Hansbrough, and the Heels are in the bonus already. 73-69, Heels.

The under-8 timeout. Both teams have hit that stretch of the second half of a tough game right now where shots start to stop falling and some sloppy play happens. Both of these teams are good enough to snap out of it fairly quickly though. If Duke is going to win this game, Henderson has to get it going in this half. You still have to be looking for a big Paulus defensive play and a 3-ball though. He has that knack, but he also has his hands full with Lawson, who has figured out that he can drive to the hole this half.

6:52 A bad turnaround forced jumper from Henderson. That was a sign of frustration if I have ever seen one. 

7:41 Four fouls on Green after Henderson puts it on the deck.

6:41 Two big layups by Lawson, and then a feed to Thompson that leads to two foul shots. Heels by nine, 80-71. 

Now’s when the Duke shots begin to fall again.

6:02 NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!


Hansbrough with a crazy 3 with a hand in his face as the shot clock winds down. 83-71, Heels.

6:00 Not much you can say about the 3-ball from Hansbrough. Solid Duke defense and a big bailout 3 from the All-American. That was a huge break for the Heels. 

4:47 Lawson with two foul shots. 85-71, Heels.

4:30 Has there been an ice rink installed under the floor at Cameron? I don’t know the last time I saw so many guys just fall down.

3:42 They can’t guard him. Lawson drives to the hole again after Singler misses an open 3. Lawson is fouled and the Heels lead 87-71 pending the foul shot.

Carolina has outscored Duke 43-19 in the second half. 

Lawson has taken over in this second half — 16 points now. His driving ability has put the Heels in a great position to close this game out. 

Lawson makes the foul shot, and it’s a 14-0 run for the Heels. Duke, after shooting the lights out in the first half, is just 8-for-27 (30 percent) from the floor to this point in the second half. The Heels? 15 of 27, or 56 percent.

3:14 Excellent ball movement by the Devils leads to a Scheyer 3 to cut the Heels’ lead back to 14.  They are going to need some steals to get back in this one.

Couple quick steals, Charlotte Hornets back in the ballgame. Sorry, channelled my inner Gil McGregor there.

2:54 Dumb foul by Hansbrough, and Smith coverts the three-point play. 90-77, Heels.

2:08 The Tar Heels burn a timeout in response to the Duke halfcourt trap. Barring a major — and I mean major — meltdown, the Heels should be in cruise control from here. However, a few missed free throws and who knows? 

1:29 Lawson drives to the hole, even though the Heels just need to run the clock, and gets it blocked. Then Scheyer is fouled on a 3, makes two, the Heels can’t board the last miss, and Singler hits a runner. It’s down to eight, 92-84.

1:16 There have been some crazy things in this rivalry — eight-point game.

50.5 seconds Heels starting to take better care of the ball. Lawson hits a pair from the line — the Heels have owned the stripe tonight — and the lead is back to 12.

34.9 seconds Heels throw it away again and Ellington with a terrible foul. Fortunately, Singler misses the front end, and it’s awfully quiet in Cameron.

Just like it has been the last four years.

OK, that was a cheap shot.

34.6 seconds A 12-point game. I think even the Cameron Crazies know this one is over. Lawson really showed his value to this team tonight for Carolina. The highlights on ESPN later tonight will certainly go in his NBA draft file.

26.0 seconds Breakaway for Lawson. Biscuits!

100-86, Heels.


101-87, Total domination by Carolina in the 2nd half. They took away the 3 from Duke and Ty Lawson was unstoppable. I enjoyed watching this one tonight.

And North Carolina comes away with its fourth straight win at Cameron Indoor, and after a blistering first half by the Blue Devils, Carolina weathered the storm with some solid defense. 

That said, Duke missed a ton of pretty good shots. The Devils had a whopping 52 points at the half, but were outscored by 22 points in the second half. 

The Heels finished with all five starters in double-figures, and Frasor added nine, all in the first half, and without them, Carolina could’ve been in real trouble.

But let’s face it: The Heels won this game because they had Ty Lawson and Duke didn’t. Lawson was brilliant tonight, finishing with 25 points, and he flat-out took the game over in the second half. Hansbrough is a great player, but Lawson is the key to UNC contending for a national title this year. If he plays like this six times in the tournament, the Heels may be cutting down the nets. He is Carolina’s most valuable player.

It’s a great win for the Heels, and now we’ll see whether Duke can keep up its great play in the Dean E. Smith Center on March 8.




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