Buzzer-beaters, NBA stars highlight best of Duke-UNC rivalry

Mar 28, 2022, 2:36 AM | Updated: 4:17 pm
FILE - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, right, hugs senior Steve Wojciechowski after the guard helped th...

FILE - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, right, hugs senior Steve Wojciechowski after the guard helped the team in a comeback against North Carolina for a win Feb. 28, 1998, in Durham, N.C. The 1998 matchup ranks as one of the most memorable matchups between rivals Duke and North Carolina in the Krzyzewski era entering Saturday’s first-ever NCAA Tournament game in the Final Four. (Christopher A. Record/The Charlotte Observer via AP, File)

(Christopher A. Record/The Charlotte Observer via AP, File)

The Duke-North Carolina rivalry has been filled with future NBA stars and intense finishes through nearly 100 meetings in Mike Krzyzewski’s Hall of Fame tenure with the Blue Devils.

Now, with the teams preparing for Saturday’s Final Four meeting that marks the neighboring programs’ first in the NCAA Tournament, here’s a look at seven of the memorable matchups during Krzyzewski’s tenure:

UNC 77, DUKE 74 (1989)

This Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title battle in Atlanta was testy.

A rough-and-tumble game saw Krzyzewski and late Hall of Famer Dean Smith trading words, the teams being separated during a second-half stoppage and Duke All-American Danny Ferry playing with a long cut on his cheek.

The game ended when Ferry’s 70-footer struck iron to nearly force overtime, giving the Tar Heels their first ACC title in seven years.

UNC 75, DUKE 73 (1992)

Reigning national champion Duke was unbeaten and the No. 1-ranked team in the country. UNC, featuring current head coach Hubert Davis, was just one of two teams to beat the Blue Devils on Duke’s way to a repeat title.

There are enduring images of UNC center Eric Montross suffering a bloody gash on the back of his head and a cut oozing blood under his left eye. The showdown ended when Derrick Phelps rebounded Christian Laettner’s missed leaner in the lane as the final seconds ticked off the clock before UNC fans stormed their home court.

UNC 102, DUKE 100, 2OT (1995)

From Jerry Stackhouse’s incredible dunk to Jeff Capel’s near-halfcourt shot, this game had something for every basketball fan.

Krzyzewski wasn’t on the bench for it; he missed much of the year after back surgery. But the game featured a Final Four-bound UNC team led by future NBA players in Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace against a Duke team that would finish with a losing record but still nearly upset the Tar Heels in a rivalry classic.

Capel’s oft-replayed runner from just inside of half court forced the second overtime, though the Tar Heels held on after the Blue Devils missed two tying shots on the final play.

DUKE 77, UNC 75 (1998)

UNC won Round 1 easily in a 1-vs-2 matchup. Duke took Round 2 in an epic comeback.

Playing on Senior Day, the Blue Devils rallied from 17 down after halftime behind freshman star Elton Brand against a team featuring national player of the year Antawn Jamison and eventual two-decade NBA star Vince Carter.

The game, which secured Krzyzewski’s 500th career victory, ended with senior point guard Steve Wojciechowski running straight to his coach at the horn for a long embrace amid the rare sight of the “Cameron Crazies” rushing the court.

UNC 75, DUKE 73 (2005)

One-and-done player Marvin Williams helped UNC make a late comeback to secure the ACC regular-season title and Roy Williams’ first win in the series.

The Tar Heels rallied from nine down in the final 3 minutes by closing on an 11-0 run, with Williams chasing down a loose rebound that had ricocheted among multiple players and scoring on a whistle-drawing putback with 17 seconds left.

After Williams hit the free throw, Duke’s J.J. Redick missed a 3 for the lead and Daniel Ewing couldn’t connect on a jumper off a loose rebound to end it, setting off another court-storming fan celebration in Chapel Hill.

DUKE 85, UNC 84 (2012)

In terms of wild finishes, Austin Rivers’ shot has earned its place in the rivalry’s lore.

The Blue Devils rallied from 10 down with 2:38 left for a stunning road win, ending with the 6-foot-4 Rivers – son of former NBA player and Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers – burying a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of UNC 7-footer Tyler Zeller at the horn in front of stunned and silent Smith Center crowd.

“I’m not sure we won the whole fight,” Krzyzewski said afterward, “but the last round, we did, and we won the game.”

DUKE 74, UNC 73 (2019)

This was a much-anticipated ACC Tournament semifinal between eventual No. 1-seeds in the NCAA Tournament. This one featured top overall NBA draft pick Zion Williamson and five other first-rounder selections.

Williamson had exited the first meeting with a knee injury after slipping to the court a nd having his foot rip through the side of his shoe early on. UNC won that meeting and the rematch while Duke’s 6-7, 285-pound freshman missed nearly six full games before returning for the ACC Tournament.

Williamson had 31 points, including the go-ahead score by tipping in his own miss with 30.3 seconds left. The Tar Heels had a final possession, but their two one-and-done first-round picks missed — Coby White with a jumper and Nassir Little on the tip — as Duke went on to claim Krzyzewski’s 15th and final tournament title.


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Buzzer-beaters, NBA stars highlight best of Duke-UNC rivalry