CHAPEL HILL — The tight corridor of North Carolina’s visiting locker room rattled with elation.
And rightly so. Duke, the seventh-ranked team in the nation, had swiped away a victory at the Dean Dome.
Trailing by as many as 13, the Blue Devils (10-2 ACC, 20-3 overall) rallied for a 98-96 overtime win behind a game-winning tip-in by Wendell Moore and a late surge ushered by sophomore Tre Jones.
So rightfully so, Duke was jubilant. Cassius Stanley called Moore “a certified Duke legend” as the scene started settling down and Jones went toward his locker.
“I didn’t think it would take that,” Jones added. “But like I said, I knew what it takes.
“Almost dead in the water there in regulation and overtime. Everyone on the team had the same look in their eye, same look on their face. . .we all believed in each other.”
More than halfway through the game, belief was fleeting.
Vernon Carey, Duke’s leading scorer and stud post player, was rendered quiet. He scored all of his 18 points in the first half, missed all five of his second-half shots and fouled out with just over four minutes to play. Duke was forced to play smaller but used its team speed by getting into the paint late.
“We knew that they were in a little bit of foul trouble at the guard spot,” Jones said. “So just trying to put the pressure on him. Knew Anthony didn’t want to foul – he had four there – so just try to go at them.”
Anthony earned his fourth foul with 40 seconds remaining, and Jones capitalized by scoring at the rim and putting pressure on UNC (3-9, 10-13) to close out.
Jones scored the Blue Devils’ last nine points of regulation. The last three points sent it to overtime: making his first free throw, bouncing the second off the rim, corraling his rebound and pulling up from the right elbow. He also chipped in Duke’s first six points of overtime. But he found himself in a breakout battle with Cole Anthony.
UNC’s freshman point guard tried his best to keep the game in the Tar Heels' grasps. He hit back-to-back scores before an Andrew Platek shot tied the score, 91-91. Anthony hit two free throws to put North Carolina up, 96-91, with 20 seconds remaining.
But that melted, with Jones hitting a fast-break layup and drawing a foul. He missed the free throw, the ball sputtered out of bounds and possession was given to Duke. Moore capitalized on a layup in the paint, cutting UNC’s lead to 96-95.
An inbound UNC turnover with 10 seconds remaining gave Duke its chance. Jones drew a foul, hitting the first of two shots. On the miss, Moore rebounded the ball, getting it to Jones. The sophomore took the final shot, and it rattled out. But Moore was there again to tip in the game-deciding score.
In the end, Duke led only 1 minute and 47 seconds of a 45-minute battle. And it was Jones who pushed them over to the victorious side.
“Tre was magnificent,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It was his best game. Because he not only scored and hit big buckets, but his will and his passion permeated throughout our whole team.
“It made us one and gave us a chance to hang in there.”