4:00 PM ET, March 9, 2003
Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina dived head first back into its rivalry with Duke (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) on Sunday.The Tar Heels salvaged their up-and-down season and three-year slump against their arch rival by beating the Blue Devils 82-79 in a wild ending to the regular season. "We've been taking punches to the face all year and we've come off the mat each time,'' said North Carolina coach Matt Doherty, who was involved in a shouting-shoving incident during the game. "We came off the mat today and played a great game against a great opponent. What a gutsy effort. To me it was one of those classic Carolina-Duke games.'' The Tar Heels went a program-worst 8-20 last year and lost to the Blue Devils by 29 at home before rebounding this season with a 16-14 record with one of the nation's youngest teams. "To double the win total from last year, I think that shows a lot about this team,'' Doherty said. "And again, this schedule is one of the toughest in the country.'' Rashad McCants scored 26 points and Raymond Felton added 18 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists as the Tar Heels snapped a six-game losing skid to Duke, which saw its streak of 12-win ACC seasons end at six straight. "I just wanted to be more aggressive and make a mental statement,'' said McCants, who scored his most points since getting 26 against Maryland on Jan. 22. "I went out and didn't think about anything but just playing.'' A 30-footer by Dahntay Jones, who led Duke (21-6, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 22 points, that would have tied the game came just after the buzzer sounded. The officials watched TV replays to confirm the late shot as thousands of fans stormed the floor at the Smith Center. "I was getting ready to drop to my knees and cry,'' North Carolina's Jawad Williams said. "But it was good feeling that it didn't count.'' There were 21 lead changes before a layup by McCants and a long 3-pointer by Felton gave the Tar Heels (16-14, 6-10) a 68-64 lead with 7:03 left. The Blue Devils then went to a zone, seldom employed by Mike Krzyzweski, to slow down North Carolina's offense and tied it 72-72 with 2:23 remaining. McCants then hit a 3-pointer and Jackie Manuel added a driving layup for a five-point lead. North Carolina sealed it from the free throw line, going 5-of-6 over the final 24 seconds. Felton and David Noel, a 38-percent foul shooter, each made two while clinging to a two-point lead. "This whole year we've been going through the same thing,'' Duke captain Chris Duhon said. "We just can't play 20 minutes of basketball and expect to win. It has to be a full 40 minutes and until we get that concept we're just going to be a good team, we're not going to be an outstanding team.'' McCants was 12-for-16 from the field as North Carolina shot a season-high 56 percent. "After the game I told him, `Rashad, you're back to your old self,''' Doherty said of his slumping leading scorer. "He was in the flow and guys were looking for him and he took advantage.'' Meanwhile, Duke struggled with North Carolina's quickness and poor outside shooting, going 5-for-23 from 3-point range. "We haven't played as well in a game as we've practiced on a day-to-day basis,'' Krzyzewski said. "It's not effort, it's basically communication. I thought we would be a little better at that by now. It's not there, though. A lot of it is personalities. We don't have (Shane) Battier and (Mike) Dunleavy talking.'' The game grew ugly with 8:17 left and the score tied at 63. Felton was bloodied when he took an elbow on a follow shot by Jones. He was being helped to his feet by Doherty near the Duke bench when Blue Devils assistant coach Chris Collins began to jaw with Doherty. Duke senior reserve guard Andre Buckner then came out of the huddle and pushed Doherty with two hands to the chest. Doherty went back at Buckner and both teams began pushing and shoving as the officials tired to restore order. "Things got a little heated there,'' Doherty said. "That happens, that's part of it. But I thought as crazy as things got both teams settled down and Coach Krzyzewski handled it with a lot of class.'' Doherty and Jones exchanged words in the first meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium after Jones made a basket and passed the North Carolina coach on the sideline. The 214th matchup between the schools separated by 8 miles produced 12 lead changes in the opening 12:11. Duke's Sheldon Williams, who finished with 20 points, and McCants were non factors in the first meeting in Cameron. However, both players led their teams early on in this one. Williams had 10 points for Duke, controlling the paint, while McCants, who was 1-for-8 in the Feb. 5 game as he battled back problems, was 7-for-9 for 14 points. His hot shooting was indicative of the Tar Heels, who made 18 of their first 26 shots and finished the half shooting 61 percent to take a six-point halftime lead.
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