Brandon Ingram ‘Creating Own Path’, Chooses Duke

Brandon Ingram, the No. 3 player in the basketball Class of 2015, chose Duke as his college destination Monday evening inside the Kinston High School gymnasium.

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For the Tar Heels, the decision hurts. UNC had recruited the five-star recruit heavily since his freshman year in high school.

ingram 4

Brandon Ingram sporting a Duke hat Monday (WITN)

But alas, Ingram will be playing for the national champions this fall, wearing a darker shade of blue.

Ingram says he’s ‘creating his own path’ in his basketball journey.

He made that statement loud and clear to the college hoops world when he slapped on a dark blue Blue Devil hat inside a packed gym lined with throngs of fans and media members.

UNC appeared to have the leg up on the competition in the Ingram Stakes. Roy Williams and the UNC coaching staff had him targeted for years. The Tar Heels also had the built-in advantage of former UNC players Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock hailing from Kinston – Ingram’s rural hometown.

Ingram had been talking to both and appeared destined to make his way to Chapel Hill. But instead, with the weight of the ominous NCAA cloud still hanging over Carolina, its most hated rival, Duke, swept in and grabbed the 6’ 8” talent at the eleventh hour.

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

But former Tar Heel great Phil Ford says deciding on a school to play ball is always a difficult decision, and it’s one each player must make for himself.

“It’s not a science in picking the right school. It’s just one of those things that you have to go with your heart. Follow your heart,” Ford says.

Yes, Ingram may be following his heart down the road to Durham, but that doesn’t make it sting any less for the Tar Heels.

Following his son’s announcement, Donald Ingram told the media the ongoing NCAA investigation ultimately killed UNC’s chances.

And his son doesn’t disagree. Brandon Ingram confirmed what had been a long-held belief by many – sans the NCAA cloud; he would have been wearing Carolina blue.

UNC has given out 13 offers to the class of 2015. Eleven of those players have opted for other schools – only Kenny Williams and Jaylen Brown remain.

Blue Devil Bats Wake Up, Crush Tar Heels

The Duke offense finally broke through on Sunday, lifting the Blue Devils to a 9-2 victory over the 11th ranked UNC baseball team at Boshamer Stadium in the final act of their three-game series. The loss is North Carolina’s first in ACC play in 2015, dropping its record to 2-1 in conference and 10-4 overall. As for Duke, it earned its first conference win, improving to 1-2 in the ACC and 11-3 for the year.

In a surprise move, the Tar Heels decided their scheduled starter, senior Benton Moss, needed more rest. So Coach Mike Fox and his staff decided to call on sophomore AJ Bogucki to try and get the job done.

“Moss is not ready to pitch right now,” Fox says, “If he was available to pitch, he would have pitched today. We’ll find out a little more about what’s going on with him probably the first of this week.” Coach also added that they believe it may be a forearm issue, but he didn’t have any other details.

Despite not recording a hit in the first inning, it would not take long for the Blue Devils to chase Bogucki from the game.

Sophomore AJ Bogucki did not have his best day making the start for Benton Moss. (UNC Athletics)

With two outs in the top of the second, Duke catcher Mike Rosenfeld singled up the middle to score third baseman Jack Labosky. After a passed ball sent Rosenfeld to second base, he was sent home when Justin Bellinger’s liner dropped into right-field, handing the team from Durham an early 2-0 lead.

UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes wasted no time heading to the mound, replacing Bogucki with Spencer Trayner, who struck out second baseman Andy Perez to end the inning.

Three errors by the Duke infield in the bottom half of the second allowed Carolina to get one run back off of their starter, sophomore Bailey Clark. UNC had runners on first and second with no outs after an error by Blue Devil shortstop Kenny Koplove let Alex Raburn cross the plate, but Clark escaped the jam without giving up anything more.

Duke senior catcher Mike Rosenfeld led the Blue Devil attack, going -

Duke senior catcher Mike Rosenfeld led the Blue Devil attack, going 3-4 with an RBI. (

Coming into the game with a fantastic 1.35 ERA, Clark continued his high level of play on Sunday, tossing eight innings while giving up just one earned run and four hits. He also struck out six.

“He came right at us, pounded the zone, and we knew he threw a lot of fastballs coming in, so that’s kind of what we looked for,” says UNC second baseman Alex Raburn, “He had a good outing. We didn’t really perform today. I guess that’s what it comes down to.”

Missing Moss proved to be crucial for the Tar Heels, as Peter Zyla and Justin Bellinger each hit two-run doubles for Duke in a third inning where the Blue Devils scored more runs (four) than they had in the previous two games combined (three).

To put the “loss of Moss” into perspective, Zac Gallen pitched seven innings on Friday, JB Bukauskas went six on Saturday, and Sunday UNC used four pitchers just to get through the first three.

They would end up going through eight arms in total, a number that could have been higher if not for strong outings from Trevor Kelley and Jason Morgan. Kelley pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in his third straight game with a relief appearance, while Morgan made his first career college appearance and threw 2.2 scoreless to reach the end of the game.

Afterwards, Kelley spoke about what allowed him to have success individually against the Blue Devils all weekend.

“I got in Friday, got in yesterday, so I kind of became familiar with their line-up,” Kelley says, “They’re all over the plate, so I knew bustin’ them in early in the count would open up my off-speed (pitches).”

Freshman first baseman Zack Gahagan provided the lone bright spot of the day for Carolina, hitting his second home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh.

Unfortunately the solo shot did not have much effect on the outcome, as it only slimmed Duke’s lead to 9-2, where it would stay until the end, as UNC didn’t get another hit for the rest of the game.

Coach Fox took a big picture approach to the loss.

“We had a good week. If you win every series, you know you’re gonna host a regional (in the NCAA tournament),” Coach says, “So that’s probably what I’ll go in there and tell (the players) just to make them feel a little bit better. It is important to win the series, and it’s important to win a series at home, especially.”

The Tar Heels close out the series with a 183-100-2 record all-time against Duke in baseball.

Up Next:

It’ll be time to hit the road again for the Tar Heels as they head to Conway, South Carolina for a game with Coastal Carolina set to begin at 4 P.M on Tuesday. Starting pitchers have not been announced.

Game Notes:

  • Duke hit 6-11 with runners in scoring position (.545).
  • UNC’s Zack Gahagan and Duke’s starting pitcher Bailey Clark are cousins. Gahagan homered off of Clark in the seventh.
  • The Blue Devils recorded 12 hits on Sunday after getting just 14 combined on Friday and Saturday


Duke Spoils Carolina’s Senior Night, Earns Season Sweep

The night in the Smith Center started with a rousing cheer. Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged his adoring fans. No, that’s not a typo.

This is Duke-Carolina after all. But the celebrations for the Blue Devils didn’t end after the pregame festivities. Postgame was pretty fun too.

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The No.19 North Carolina Tar Heel men’s basketball team, despite leading by as many as seven points in the second half, couldn’t keep up with the aggressive-minded No. 3 Duke Blue Devils Saturday night, falling 84-77.

It was a bit of déjà vu for Carolina, who once again, saw a second half lead dissipate quickly against its immensely talented rival from Durham.

Duke's defense bottled up Kennedy Meeks (Todd Melet)

Duke’s defense bottled up Kennedy Meeks (Todd Melet)

The Blue Devils improved to 28-3 on the season with a 15-3 mark in conference action. With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 21-10 overall and 11-7 in ACC play.

Duke freshman guard Tyus Jones led all scorers with 24 points and senior Quinn Cook added in 20 points of his own to apply a powerful one-two punch for a high-octane offense.

In addition, Duke showed its toughness. The Blue Devils battled their way to the foul line on 26 occasions, doubling up UNC, who made a mere 13 trips to the charity stripe. Too often, the Tar Heels settled for shots outside the paint – not a comfort zone.

For the second time in the last three seasons, UNC has failed to send out its seniors with a victory on Senior Night. And for that, UNC head coach Roy Williams was all torn up.

“I hate it on senior day but I was spoiled rotten. Ten years as an assistant coach, we always won on senior day. First 24 years as a head coach, we won on every senior day, and now we’ve lost two of the last three. Whatever I was doing earlier, I need to get back to doing a better job,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige finished with a team-leading 23 points, but was understandably disappointed with the 16 turnovers committed by Carolina.

Roy Williams shares his side of the story to an official (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams shares his side of the story to an official (Todd Melet)

“We didn’t take care of the ball. We took a couple of quick shots. We weren’t complacent or comfortable with our 7-point lead, but we didn’t stick to what got us there. A couple passes got errant and they capitalized on every single one of them. They had 21 points off turnovers and a lot of them came during that run,” Paige says.

Coach K said there was little separating the two teams, but he was thrilled with the winning result.

“I think it was a similar game as the one in Durham where either team is deserving of winning. Like one play or one little spurt and both teams played unbelievably hard and we’re obviously really pleased because we won a hard fought game against an outstanding team that was obviously ready to play. They were ready to play. I thought our bench was terrific,” Coach K says.

The started with a J.P. Tokoto steal that led to an emphatic dunk by Brice Johnson that tallied the contest’s first points. The Smith Center promptly erupted.

But from there, Duke did Duke things, knocking down outside shots to take an early 14-8 lead.

Johnson was the emotional spearhead for the Tar Heels in the opening 20 minutes of play, screaming after critical rebounds and amping up the raucous fans.

A Paige three-pointer with 6:06 to go before halftime gave UNC its first lead of the contest. At intermission, the Tar Heels held a 33-31 edge thanks in large part to some subpar shooting from Duke.

The Tar Heels stretched it out to a seven-point lead out of the locker room only to watch Duke go on a 14-2 run midway through the second half.

Bodies were flying all over the Smith Center floor (Todd Melet)

Bodies were flying all over the Smith Center floor (Todd Melet)

Duke’s defensive press flustered UNC at times. Six points in less than 20 seconds always helps the cause as well. Two drained three-pointers gave Duke the 68-59 lead with 6:17 to play in the contest.

UNC’s final opportunity was snuffed out in the closing seconds when down five points, freshman Joel Berry fumbled an easy hand-off to Paige. The Smith Center crowd exodus promptly followed.

UNC freshman forward Justin Jackson pretty much summed up the evening for the Tar Heels.

“It just comes down to wanting it more. They made plays down the stretch that we didn’t, and that’s why we lost. It’s as simple as that. First half we came out, and we played pretty hard. Second half, at the start of it we played hard and got lackadaisical. Whenever you get lackadaisical with a team like that they take advantage of it, and that’s just the end of it,” Jackson says.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes the ACC Tournament and a Wednesday meeting in Greensboro with either Boston College or Georgia Tech.



Tar Heels Take Game 2, Clinch UNC-Duke Baseball Series Win

Saturday’s opening act of the UNC-Duke showdown took place on the diamond, where JB Bukauskas’s pitching and three hits from Logan Warmoth led the 11th ranked Tar Heels to a 6-2 win over the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. Carolina opens ACC play 2-0 and moves to 10-3 overall. Duke falls to 0-2 in the conference with their second straight loss, and their overall record dips to 10-3.

Plenty of fans came out to Boshamer Stadium to show their support for the Tar Heels, but one could argue that there were just as many pro scouts in attendance trying to get a good look at the day’s pitching matchup.

The Blue Devils sent 6’6″ junior Michael Matuella, considered by some to be the top pitching prospect in college baseball, to face-off with UNC’s own prize recruit, Bukauskas.

This has been the sight at the Bosh all weekend. Zac Gallen struck out 12 on Friday, and JB Bukauskas sat down - on Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

This has been the sight at the Bosh all weekend. Zac Gallen struck out 12 on Friday, and JB Bukauskas sat down eight on Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

Security must have been out on vacation, because both men brought in cannons: their right arms.

Bukauskas’ fastball touched 96 on the radar gun, just a tad faster than Matuella’s, which sat right at 94 in the initial portion of the game.

The freshman was caught in a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second after Duke loaded the bases with just one out, but escaped by getting Blue Devil shortstop Kevin Koplove to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Other than that initial scare, JB Bukauskas (2-1) was money, stealing the spotlight for himself.

He followed Friday’s 12 strikeout performance from Zac Gallen with his own masterpiece. Six scoreless innings and eight strikeouts, while giving up just four hits easily represented the best start of his career. At one point in the game he retired twelve hitters in a row; a streak snapped by Duke center-fielder Evan Dougherty’s two-out single in the top of the sixth.

Coach Mike Fox has been extremely impressed with Bukauskas’ composure in big moments, saying after the game that “He doesn’t let anything phase him. He’s just the same, it’s like he has no heartbeat, and that’s good. That’s good when you’re pitching.”

Logan Warmoth continued a great freshman year, going - with an RBI. (UNC Athletics)

Logan Warmoth continued a great freshman year, going 3-3 with an RBI. (UNC Athletics)

Matuella, on the other hand, delivered a solid, but short, outing as he recovers from forearm tightness that has plagued him over the past couple weeks. Duke head coach Chris Pollard pulled his star after he threw three scoreless innings and gave up one hit, a single to UNC third baseman Logan Warmoth.

“He throws 95 just like JB, he throws gas, so I was just trying to see it as long as I could,” Warmoth says about facing off with the big righty, “I took two fastballs that were good pitches, but he came back with another one, so I just put my bat on it. He supplied the power, so I barely had to hit it.”

Reliever Mitch Stallings, a freshman, came on to pitch the fourth inning for the Blue Devils, something the Tar Heel bats really seemed to appreciate. Landon Lassiter hit a lead-off double, and was immediately sent home by Tyler Ramirez’s RBI triple in the next at-bat. Ramirez scored soon after on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Adrian Chacon, and later in the same frame Warmoth’s second hit of the day plated Brian Miller–handing Carolina a 3-0 lead through four.

This seemed to change the flow of the game in the eyes of Carolina’s young pitching prodigy.

“I thought we battled well against him, but as soon as he came out I thought that was a weight off our shoulders and I wouldn’t say we let our guard down, but it kind of loosened things up, and we started, I think, playing a little bit better,” Bukauskas says.

Replacing Bukauskas to begin the seventh was one of the Tar Heels’ own freshman relievers, Hansen Butler, who was tasked with protecting the three-run lead. Unfortunately for Butler, the Blue Devils ended his outing quickly, loading the bases with no outs after two base-hits and a walk.

Tyler Ramirez slides into third for a triple. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez slides into third for a triple. (UNC Athletics)

It was the reliable senior, Trevor Kelley, that got Carolina out of the seventh cleanly with a strikeout, a spectacular catch on a line drive hit right back at him, and a ground-out earned by a diving stop by first baseman Zack Gahagan. This sequence played out to a loud chorus of cheers from the Tar Heel faithful, a group worried that the Blue Devils had found a sign of life.

Kelley’s heroics must have motivated the UNC offense to give their bullpen some more breathing room, because they came out in their half of the seventh and added two more runs. Gahagan, a freshman, tripled in Alex Raburn and fellow first-year Brian Miller singled home Gahagan, all with two outs.

Duke finally broke through off of Kelley in the eighth when catcher Mike Rosenfeld smashed a double to left center-field, scoring two runs and cutting their deficit back to three. Nick Raquet appeared out of the Tar Heel bullpen and took the ball from Kelley to record the last out of the inning.

That would not be enough to stop the Tar Heels from winning their fourth game in a row.

Carolina tacked on an additional run in the eighth before Duke’s final chance in the ninth against UNC’s current closer Trent Thornton. Thornton wouldn’t need it, as he pitched a scoreless ninth and clinched the series win for Coach Fox and his club.

Up Next:

The series will close out tomorrow with the Tar Heels looking for the sweep. Game 3 will begin at 2 P.M, as UNC ace Benton Moss (2-0, 2.30 ERA) will head to the bump to face Duke’s sophomore right-hander Bailey Clark (1-0, 1.35 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Matuella went three innings and threw 39 pitches for Duke after throwing just 25 in his last start. His ERA remains 0.00.
  • Tyler Ramirez’s fourth inning triple was his second of the season. He leads UNC in triples and home runs (with two in each category).
  • The loss is credited to Duke’s Mitch Stallings, who pitched the fourth and fifth innings, giving up three runs.
  • Carolina shortstop Wood Myers had his hitting streak snapped at 15 games.


Gallen’s 12 K’s Lead UNC Baseball to Victory Over Duke

Zac Gallen tallied 12 strikeouts in a phenomenal starting pitching performance, leading the 11th ranked UNC baseball team to a series opening win over the rival Duke Blue Devils by a score of 8-1 Friday afternoon in Chapel Hill. The win improves UNC to 9-3 and 1-0 in the ACC. It also ends Duke’s nine-game winning streak, dropping them to 10-2 and 0-1 in conference play so far in 2015.

Predictions for this series called for the games to be low scoring and dominated by pitching. Those forecasts certainly held true in the early going for each team, but ultimately this day was all about one man.

Gallen (1-1) came out of the gate firing missiles, striking out 10 Blue Devil batters in just the first four innings, surpassing his career high of nine set last Sunday against Rhode Island. By the end of the game he had put together arguably the best performance by a UNC player all season long.

“I watched a lot of video on them yesterday,” Gallen says, “And I just saw that they were kind of cheating to go away (from the plate), so same thing as last weekend, I just tried to establish the inner half and then open up the whole strike zone.”

Tyler Ramirez, the Tar Heel right-fielder, tripled and had an RBI in the opener vs. Duke. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez, the Tar Heel right-fielder, tripled and had an RBI in the opener vs. Duke. (UNC Athletics)

He was moved up into the Friday start after Benton Moss was moved back in the rotation to Sunday for what Coach Mike Fox deemed “precautionary” reasons. Fox has been pleased with the maturity Gallen has shown this season, despite not yet having a clearly defined role.

“We started the season and he wasn’t one of our weekend guys. He was all last year as a freshman, but he didn’t pout,” Coach Fox says, “He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t pout. And then he pitched great out of the bullpen, then we throw him into the worst possible weather last weekend and he pitches great and got a little chip on his shoulder, and then for one reason or another we’re having to pitch him in our first ACC game.”

Although Duke was originally expected to start 6’6″ right-hander Michael Matuella, they opted instead to go with senior Andrew Istler (1-1), also a righty.  Istler came into the game with an amazing 1.53 ERA in his three previous starts on the year, showing how, as he too brought his best stuff right from the get-go.

Three innings into the game neither team had a run, and each pitcher had allowed just one hit. Freshmen Evan Dougherty (Duke) and Brian Miller (UNC) each had a single, representing the only offense in the first third of the game.

Shortstop Wood Myers played well in the field and scored a run in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Wood Myers played well in the field and scored a run in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

Carolina finally got the bats rolling off of Istler in the bottom of the fourth, after a pair of infield singles by Skye Bolt and Wood Myers with no outs.  Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases, which then set up Tyler Ramirez, who drove in Bolt with a sacrifice fly to strike first blood.

The Tar Heels were also able to plate Myers before the end of the inning, giving Gallen a 2-0 lead to work with.

Similar events took place the next two times around for UNC. Skye Bolt’s second single of the day scored third baseman Logan Warmoth in the fifth, and Alex Raburn hit a sacrifice fly that scored Tyler Ramirez in the sixth, after Ramirez led off that inning with a triple.

Istler would finally come out of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning after UNC catcher Korey Dunbar singled with one out. Despite his stellar performance at the beginning of the game, he took the loss by finishing with five earned runs and eight hits in 6.1 innings of work.

As for the Tar Heels, their sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey continued to dominate the Duke line-up as the game wore on. Gallen’s pitch count rose over 100 in the top of the seventh, but his effectiveness never suffered; finishing with seven innings and just one earned run, to go along with all those strikeouts. He also gave up just four hits.

Behind the plate, with the best seat in the house for Gallen’s amazing day, Dunbar offered up a catcher’s perspective on what allowed his man to pitch so well.

Skye Bolt went 3-5 with 2 RBI to lead the Carolina offense. (WRAL)

Skye Bolt went 3-5 with 2 RBI to lead the Carolina offense. (WRAL)

“Location, location, location,” says Dunbar, “I don’t think he didn’t hit a spot. When you’re commanding your fastball and you have somewhat of a feel on your off-speed, you’re gonna have a great day no matter what, especially him, he works his tail off.”

Trevor Kelley, who earned the win against Liberty on Monday, relieved Gallen in the the eighth after Duke’s first baseman, Jalen Phillips, tripled to lead off the inning. Phillips would score on a wild pitch by Kelley, but the run was credited to Gallen, the one mark on his outstanding day.

A stand-up RBI triple with two outs in the bottom of the eighth by Dunbar, and another RBI single from Bolt, put the Tar Heels on the board for the fifth consecutive inning. These plays led to a three-run inning that put the lead out of reach, at 8-1, heading into Duke’s final at-bats.

Staying on to close it in the ninth was Kelley. The senior sat down the Duke lineup without facing any significant threats to wrap up the Tar Heels’ first win over Duke since 2013.

Up Next:

If you like fastballs, then Saturday’s pitching matchup is for you. Carolina will send freshman JB Bukauskas and his 97 mph heater to face-off with the much-hyped junior, Matuella, who also possesses a mid-to-high 90’s fastball in his devastating repertoire. Matuella has also not allowed an earned run yet this season in seven innings of work.

The game is set to begin at 2 P.M. and will be broadcast on WCHL.

Game Notes:

  • Skye Bolt (hitting just .206 heading into Friday) started in center-field for UNC after coming off the bench on Wednesday against VCU and sitting out against Liberty. He played much better, going 3-5 with two RBI.
  • Duke had a runner on second base in three of the first four innings, failing to score each time.
  • Gallen’s ERA drops to 1.69 in 15 innings on the season.
  • The Blue Devils failed to get a hit all game with a runner on base.


Stakes Are High For Duke-Carolina, Round Two

The Tar Heels have the chance to end the regular season with an exclamation point Saturday night in the Smith Center, as is generally the case when the Blue Devils come to Chapel Hill.

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No. 19 North Carolina will remember well its 92-90 overtime loss at Cameron Indoor a few weeks ago. Up by double digits in the closing minutes of regulation, some sloppy mistakes in a rowdy environment cost the Tar Heels dearly.

Saturday offers a chance at redemption. That chance at revenge certainly isn’t lost on UNC head coach Roy Williams. Roy’s all fired up.

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

“If we have a letdown this time, we don’t have a freaking heart. Come on. We’re playing Duke, they beat us last time, and it’s the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball. If we get beat, it won’t be because of a letdown. If we have a letdown Saturday, I mean, what have we done? We’re not even in the top four,” Coach Williams says.

Roy pointed out another interesting subplot to Saturday evening’s festivities.

Louisville and UNC are competing for the No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. The Cardinals face the back-to-back ACC regular season champion Virginia Cavaliers in game one of ESPN’s doubleheader. A loss there would open the door for the Tar Heels to secure the precious double bye in Greensboro next week.

As for Duke,  head coach Mike Krzyzewski has no such worries. His Blue Devils locked up the No. 2 seed next week with their senior night thrashing of Wake Forest Wednesday night.

Coach K is concerned, however, with a couple bum ankles.

“Our trainer said it didn’t seem bad. We’ll see. I don’t think long-lasting. I hope everybody is ready for Saturday. We only have the eight guys. That’s not a good thing. We’re concerned,” Coach K says.

Senior Quinn Cook meets with Coach K (Duke Photography)

Senior Quinn Cook meets with Coach K (Duke Photography)

The Tar Heels come into the rivalry matchup with some momentum. Coming off two road victories at Miami and Georgia Tech, Carolina appears to be in fine form.

“We tried to do a better job on the big guys in the second half [vs. GT]. We sort of meandered around there a little bit. We got enough breaks, enough layups and enough shots to go in the basket. But I do believe the whole thing is we just had more bodies than they did,” Coach Williams says.

A healthy Pinson adds even more depth to an already deep UNC lineup. Duke, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury. Getting into foul trouble is not an option for the shorthanded Blue Devils.

That’s why Coach K is emphasizing getting healthy.

“We secured the second spot for the ACC Tournament, which is great. Big game on Saturday. Let’s get healthy and go for it,” Coach K says.

Freshman Tar Heel Joel Berry tallied a career-high 15 points against Georgia Tech, including a trio of three-pointers.

If Berry’s knocking down outside shots, look out.

“You just got to put in the extra work if you want to see things happen in the game. I just try to after practice, get up extra shots. Once I get out on the court, game-time situation, that will help a lot,” Berry says.

Practice is in fact making perfect for Berry. The returning Pinson is hoping for the same.

“I’ve been running and cutting on it all week. I was pretty comfortable with it. I was just ready to get the heck out there and play basketball,” Pinson says.

Justin Jackson stretches to the basket (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson stretches to the basket (Todd Melet)

The final member of the Tar Heel freshman trio, Justin Jackson, has been rounding into form as well. Jackson says he’s taking a more aggressive mindset to the floor.

“For our team to win, we need everybody to step up, me included. These past couple games, I’ve tried to be more aggressive and make things happen. It’s worked out pretty well,” Jackson says.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke 133-106, but the Blue Devils have won the past two meetings.

Our pregame coverage on 97.9 FM, WCHL begins at 7 p.m. Saturday with a special one-hour edition of the UNC Healthcare Countdown to Tipoff presented by Stanley-Martin Homes hosted by Ron Stutts. Listeners can also tune in to our live stream right here on


UNC-Duke Rivalry Hits the Diamond

It’s UNC-Duke Week in Chapel Hill, and while most of the attention is on Saturday night’s basketball game, Coach Mike Fox and his 8-3, 11th ranked, Tar Heel baseball squad will also host a very talented Duke team. The Blue Devils will bring a 10-1 record into Friday’s opener.

Although they aren’t typically seen as a baseball powerhouse, head coach Chris Pollard has the Blue Devils currently on quite a roll,  as Duke brings a nine-game win streak into Boshamer Stadium.

Coach Fox says he’s well aware of the challenge in front of the Tar Heels this weekend.

Duke head coach Chris Pollard deserves a lot of credit for turning their program into a winner. (

Duke head coach Chris Pollard deserves a lot of credit for turning their program into a winner. (

“I think we’re gonna have our hands full,” Fox says, “I mean Duke’s played really well so far this pre-season. They’ve pitched exceptionally well. They’re gonna run three guys out there at us that are really, really good, and if we don’t match them on the mound, and if we don’t play good defense, we’re gonna have our hands full as I said.”

One of those great Duke pitchers is 6’6” junior Michael Matuella, considered by many pro scouts to be a lock for the first round of the MLB draft. He’ll likely start on Friday, but UNC sophomore outfielder Adam Pate says his team is confident in their game-plan against the big righty.

“He’s really talented, he’s really, really good, and obviously gonna be probably a first-rounder. Our approach to that is going to be to make him work, try and get his pitch count up, and try to get to their bullpen as soon as we can,” Pate says, adding that “When it comes to the match-up game I think we can play against just about anybody in the country.”

Senior Benton Moss has been the Tar Heels’ ace this year, with a 2-0 record and 27 strikeouts in just 15.2 innings pitched. However, it’ll be Zac Gallen on the mound in the opener, as Coach Fox says, “It looks like right now we’re gonna have to push Moss back a day. I think Coach Forbes pretty much made that decision, so it’s probably gonna be Zac Gallen (pitching Friday).”

Commenting on why the move was made, Fox was very brief, saying “Just a precaution, that’s kind of all I want to say.”

First pitch for the series will be thrown at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Both weekend games will start at 2 p.m.

Cameron Classic: Duke Slips By UNC In Overtime Thriller

In another memorable chapter in the Tobacco Road rivalry, the No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team fell in overtime, 92-90, to No. 4 Duke Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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Carolina built a ten-point second half lead with 3:51 to play to stun the Cameron Crazies, but the Tar Heels were unable to seal the deal in the closing minutes. The Blue Devils took full advantage of UNC miscues to force overtime at 81-all and ultimately complete the comeback victory.

With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 18-8 overall and an 8-5 mark in ACC play while the Blue Devils improved to 23-3 on the season with a 10-3 record in the league.

“It’s tough for this game to always live up to the hype,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says. “But I think tonight’s game exceeded it.”

This topsy-turvy edition of the Battle of the Blues was played at a feverish, hectic pace and saw a number of players on both sides rise to the occasion, but it was Duke guard Tyus Jones who shone the brightest on this night, delivering the goods in the clutch and finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Duke’s Quinn Cook also had an outstanding game, contributing 22 points of his own while playing a whopping 45 minutes of the grueling contest that forced millions of viewers to stay up well past their bedtimes.

Notably, one UNC player was surprisingly quiet. Marcus Paige, normally an offensive catalyst for the Tar Heels, struggled to get open against the disciplined defense of Jones and when he did get shots off, he missed the mark completely, only managing to tally five points on 2-11 shooting.

“My teammates came to battle. They played fantastic the whole game. And I didn’t really give them anything,” Paige says.

In Paige’s place, a supporting cast of Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto was forced to take a starring role. The trio handled the promotion well, playing with an intensity and focus rarely seen so far in their careers.

Meeks and Johnson finished with 18 points apiece while Tokoto supplied 15 points that included a couple electrifying dunks that silenced the hostile crowd briefly each time.

But ironically, it was normally exquisite passer Meeks, whose carelessly tossed pass actually turned the tables late in the game and paved the path for a Duke rally.

“If you just care about college basketball then you had to enjoy that part of it. But I happen to love North Carolina, so it’s not as agreeable with me,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Duke sped out of the gates with a fury, staking a 13-4 lead with 16:41 on the first half clock. UNC appeared nervous in the opening minutes but settled down quickly to survive the Blue Devil storm.

Paige couldn't get much going Wed. night (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

Paige couldn’t get much going Wed. night (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

The Tar Heels battled hard and received contributions from a variety of players to cut the devfcit down to 40-36 after a Joel James layup with 4:12 to play before intermission.

At the halftime buzzer, Duke held a 49-42 advantage thanks to early hot shooting.

The start of the second half was dominated by the guys in Carolina blue. The Tar Heels got their offense flowing with crisp passing and unselfish ball movement. What’s more, their defense was suffocating. In full flight, UNC was something to see. The scoreboard reflected the spike in play too with Carolina sporting a 77-67 advantage with 3:51 to go.

But down the stretch, careless mistakes started to creep in. Missed foul shots didn’t help matters any either. Duke, meanwhile, turned up the defensive intensity and suprised Carolina by not settling for three-pointes when falling behind by double-digits.

Instead, the Blue Devils raised their toughness level and began driving straight to the basket, finishing the shots around the rim and often, drawing a foul.

The overtime period was tight throughout, but it was clear who had all the momentum. With the Cameron crowd in a frenzy, it was hard to imagine a scenario where UNC emerged victorious. But still, the Tar Heels had plenty of chances. But in the end, Duke snagged the all-important rebound to seal the deal off an intentional Carolina free throw miss.

In a lighter moment, before the game, Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Williams embraced while teammates from both squads put their arms around each other at midcourt for a poignant moment of silence to honor the late Dean Smith. The silence in Cameron Indoor was breathtaking – almost like a cathedral. Some fans even wore T-shirts in Duke’s color scheme and lettering that read DEAN in place of the usual DUKE.

Outside of the final outcome, an emotional Coach Williams says he was pleased with his team’s fight.

“For the most part, I really enjoyed the toughness and the poise of my team. Yes, we missed some free throws and wide open shots, but that’s college basketball. It’s 18, 19, 20, 21-year-old kids. We’ve been through a tough stretch. I am really proud of my team,” Coach Williams says.

Will UNC’s spirited effort against its rival serve as fuel to the fire going forward or will it represent a last gasp, of sorts, to a season that hasn’t been going in the right direction lately?

The answer will begin to reveal itself this weekend. The Tar Heels will return to action Saturday for a high noon meeting in the Smith Center with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.


Underdog Tar Heels Meet ‘Offensively Balanced’ Blue Devils At Cameron

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team,18-7 overall and 8-4 in the ACC, travels down Tobacco road Wednesday night to renew its rivalry with No. 4 Duke, 22-3 on the season with a 9-3 mark in the league. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils will square off in iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium at 9 p.m.

***Listen to the story***

“This is the best game, and it’s the best game because you have two of the top five programs to ever play college basketball going against one another. We’re only eight miles apart and both great schools. There’s a level of excellence, individual and collective, in an area that has loved basketball,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says.

This 239th installment of Carolina-Duke is once again ushered in by a rare ice storm, but unlike last year’s Snowmageddon that forced the Smith Center rivalry meeting to be called off, this season’s edition should go off without a hitch in sweaty and cramped Cameron.

Coach K (

Coach K (

The Cameron Crazies will be raring to go and ready to seek refuge from their Kville tents, where they’ve been spending weeks hunkered down in the cold for a chance to witness their red hot Devils down the reeling Tar Heels.

Mid-February is not a good time for UNC head coach Roy Williams to be searching for answers. But that’s exactly where the Hall of Famer finds himself with his squad.

“We did some things and yet, it wasn’t good enough. I think that’s part of the learning process too. We’ve probably shown this team more clips from games than we have any from the last three or four years at least. I think it’s still a part of the learning process with this group,” Coach Williams says.

JP Tokoto defends Duke's Quinn Cook (UNC Athletics)

JP Tokoto defends Duke’s Quinn Cook (UNC Athletics)

UNC junior forward Brice Johnson, who’s been coming off the bench lately, has been struggling to establish the consistency he envisioned for himself in 2015, but there’s no game he’d rather find his form than against Duke.

“I did watch it as a kid growing up. I was a Carolina fan growing up. I did watch quite a bit of the games. The one that really stuck out was the time Tyler [Hansbrough] got elbowed in the face here. That kind of set the tone that this game is really serious. I have to be ready for it. I can’t put it into words. It’s just an honor to be playing in this game,” Johnson says.

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says a flood of memories comes rushing through his mind when he thinks of what the Carolina-Duke rivalry means to him.

“The one where Marvin Williams got the put back rings in my head. The thing I remember most is always the videos leading up to the game that show the tradition. They show Tyler Hansbrough getting elbowed in the face, [Eric] Montross with the bloody eye, Coach K screaming and the Duke players slapping the floor. Those stick with you,” Paige says.

Paige, though, has struggled to rekindle his fine form from the closing months of his sophomore campaign.

Humble and modest by nature, Paige will likely need to go against his instincts Wednesday night and become a bit selfish. Paige’s significant involvement in the UNC offense will need to be felt early and often for the Tar Heels to stay in the contest against an explosive Blue Devil squad averaging north of 80 points per outing.

Despite the intensity and passion present in the rivalry, Paige says there’s plenty of respect on both sides.

“I think that’s what makes this rivalry so special is the mutual respect. Obviously, I’m not a huge Duke fan. I don’t love them, but I really respect them. I think that’s the common theme in the rivalry. They respect us and we respect them. It’s good for the entire area,” Paige says.

Marcus Paige on the drive (Nick Vitali)

Marcus Paige on the drive (Nick Vitali)

And that level of respect could be in full display in this game. To honor Dean Smith’s passing, there are expected to be hundreds of Duke-colored T-shirts floating around Cameron with the word DEAN replacing the usual DUKE – the ultimate sign of respect from Coach Smith’s fiercest rivals.

“The students at Cameron are off the charts, but I’ve never had anything that they said or did that bothered me. They just cheer like crazy for their team. I’d like to see one of those shirts. I think that says two things – the respect Coach Smith had everywhere and the other thing is that this is a big-time rivalry, but it doesn’t have to be hatred,” Coach Williams says.

But make no mistake, there will be a winner and a loser determined with the eyes of the college basketball world fixed on Durham.

Jahlil Okafor with the slam dunk (

Jahlil Okafor with the slam dunk (

Coach Williams knows the daunting task awaiting Carolina. He’s full of praise for Coach K’s offense and especially, the favorite for the No. 1 NBA Draft pick, freshman sensation Jahlil Okafor.

“He’s a load, but he’s very gifted. He’s got great feet, great hands, turns to either shoulder and has touch when he turns. You have to make some allowances for him. Offensively, they have the best balance of any team in college basketball,” Coach Williams says.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke, 133-105, but dropped the last meeting, 93-81, on the road.

With emotions sure to be riding high, the team that can best channel those emotions and stay under control in the opening ten minutes of play is always something to watch out for.

In addition, Duke has always been a free-shooting team, possessing the ability to go on quick 9-0 runs, often times stunning its opponents into submission. If, well should we say when this happens Wednesday night, how will UNC respond?

UNC-Duke: On Point


January 10, 2015 – Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC–Trailing by one point with just 14 seconds to play in a crucial ACC home game against then fifth-ranked Louisville, North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige darts from the left wing to the top of the three-point line, where he receives a pass from Nate Britt. Center Kennedy Meeks sets a pick on Paige’s man, leaving a huge gap on the left side of the floor for the lefty to attack Cardinals 6’10” forward Chinanu Onuaku. Showing extreme confidence, UNC’s leader drives towards the hoop, cradles the ball, and lets go of a silky, smooth scoop shot high off the glass. It banks in perfectly, creating a deafening roar from the crowd. Louisville’s Terry Rozier takes one final chance at the buzzer, hoping to add to his 25 point tally, but falls short, giving the Tar Heels their signature win of the season to date, 72-71.

Marcus Paige has experience against the Blue Devils, including a win last year. (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

Marcus Paige has experience against the Blue Devils, including a win last year. (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

January 31, 2015 – John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA—Facing intense scrutiny after the first player dismissal (Rasheed Sulaimon) in Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 35 year tenure at Duke, the Blue Devils trail the second-ranked, undefeated Virginia Cavaliers by eight points  on the road, with only a shade under five minutes on the clock. Things appear bleak for the boys from Durham, as they’ll surely pick up their second consecutive loss, but wait, not so fast! BANG, BANG, BANG! The Blue Devils nail a trio of three-pointers (and a layup from Justise Winslow that ties the affair), with the third long ball, coming from senior Quinn Cook, giving Duke a three point lead as time dwindles away. Holding that same lead with 17 seconds to play, but only nine on the shot clock (Virginia guaranteed a shot at a rebound, and the ball back), freshman point guard Tyus Jones, with ice in his veins, dribbles to the right wing, hesitates, and fires a three right in the face of Cavalier guard London Perrantes. Swish. Dagger. Blue Devils win 69-63 (and they haven’t lost since.)


The greatest rivalry in all of sports will resume on Wednesday night at (arguably) the greatest venue in all of sports (Cameron Indoor Stadium) as Duke and UNC will face-off for the 239th time.

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Each school boasts a basketball program among the most prestigious and successful of all time, and a legendary coach with “larger than life” status (the late, great Dean Smith and his royal blue counterpart, Coach K.)

There’s also their combined 10 NCAA Championships, 33 Final Fours, and 19 National Players of the Year.

College legends like Christian Laettner and Tyler Hansbrough have patrolled the paint in this game. And throughout this week, plenty of hype will focus on the battle down low, with Duke’s likely top NBA draft pick, freshman center Jahlil Okafor (18 PPG, 9 RPG) squaring off with the Tar Heels’ formidable frontline of Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks (combined 25 PPG, 16 RPG).


With all due respect to the great big men that will play in, and have played in this game, it’s the little guys, the point guards, who often define what happens on the court between these two great rivals. Somebody has to pass the ball to those big fellas right?

This year’s edition will feature the experienced preseason All-American, Paige, against the five-star freshman, Jones, who plays well beyond his years.

Both are big-time players that step up in big-time moments, as evidenced in recent performances against Louisville and Virginia.

Both can pass the ball and set up teammates just as well as they can shoot and score. Paige puts up 14 points and four assists per game, while shooting 38% from distance and 82% from the foul line. Jones pours in 11 points and dishes five assists a night, drilling 40% of his threes and making 87% at the charity stripe.

Both wear number five. You get the point.


In the past, it’s been matchups like Chris Duhon and Raymond Felton, back in 2004, that have determined the outcome. Duhon’s late reverse lay-up in overtime sealed a win for Duke at the Dean Dome, and his exceptional defense on Felton, then a sophomore and the ACC leader in assists, in both games led to a clean 2-0 sweep of the games that year for the Blue Devils.

Chris Duhon's "signature" moment at Duke. (

Chris Duhon’s “signature” moment at Duke. (

On the flip-side, point guard mismatches such as Carolina’s bolt of lightning, Ty Lawson (one of the fastest players to ever set foot in Chapel Hill) asserting his will over Duke’s not very quick (to be nice) Greg Paulus from 2007-2009 without much resistance, have also drawn the line between winner and loser. Lawson consistently left his mark on those contests, and not surprisingly the Tar Heels won every game he played in against Duke. The only time a Paulus-led team beat Lawson’s Heels was in February of ’08 at UNC, when Lawson sat out with an ankle injury. Paulus drained six three-pointers that night.

Ty Lawson always enjoyed playing Greg Paulus. (Photo Courtesy

Ty Lawson always enjoyed playing Greg Paulus. (Photo Courtesy

Eventually, you find that the names of great floor generals who played in this game become too many to list them all.

Jason Williams. Phil Ford. Bobby Hurley. Ed Cota. Tommy Amaker. Kendall Marshall.

It goes on and on and on.


Wednesday night, Marcus Paige and Tyus Jones will not only continue the best rivalry in all of sports (and no, that’s not arguable), they will each add their own chapter to a rich history of point guards that goes back multiple generations.

And if, in that electric environment of Cameron Indoor Stadium, the score is tied, and the clock is ticking, there’s a good bet the ball will find the hands of number five.




E-mail Avery at or follow on Twitter: @averytrendel