Duke-North Carolina was the game of the year — so far

(AP photo)

Hate on Duke and North Carolina all you want but last night’s thriller in Chapel Hill was the best college basketball game of the season – so far. In a sport too often dominated by over-coached, slow-down, 50-49 games, this one had running and scoring. Final score was 85-84 Duke in fact.

It also had the dramatic ending with freshman guard Austin Rivers hitting that rainbow three-pointer over North Carolina’s 7-foot Tyler Zeller at the buzzer to cap a furious Duke comeback and give the visitors the win.

But truth be told, North Carolina lost it at the free throw line. Up 79-70 with 3:35 left, Harrison Barnes missed one of two free throws. Up 82-80 with 44 seconds left, Zeller missed one of two free throws. Up 83-82 with 13.9 seconds left, Zeller again missed one of two free throws. Had Zaller made the second foul shot, Rivers’ buzzer-beater would have merely sent the game into overtime.

Actually, the game may have said more about the Tar Heels than the Blue Devils. North Carolina has been hurt by the loss of Dexter Strickland to a torn ACL. And Roy Williams’ team just doesn’t seem to have the necessary mettle. First, there was that head-scratching blowout 31-point loss at Florida State. Now comes UNC blowing a 10-point lead on its home floor to its arch-rival.

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