Duke still has never witnessed the wine-and-cheese crowd.
A few years ago, before his team made its annual visit to the Dean Dome, Mike Krzyzewski wondered aloud about all the talk of the actual cheese-and-wine tag hung on UNC’s home fans by former Florida State star Sam Cassell.
“Don’t know what it is, we’ve never seen it,” Coach K said, a sort of backhanded compliment to his own teams that always stir the emotions of Tar Heel Nation to a fever pitch.
That crowd did it again Thursday night, providing sixth-man support to the program it loves and helping the current team to a magnificent win over the ninth-ranked Blue Devils, who are incredibly skilled and athletic, more like tall and talented.
The Dean Domers were at it from the opening tip, encouraging when the Tar Heels fell behind by 12 points and all in when they made it a game by halftime and then took control to begin the second half. They could have fueled a freight train as their boys built their own double-digit lead with a 22-8 run and held forth when Duke rallied while Carolina went five-and-half minutes stuck on 74 points.
Roy Williams said his troops missed 77 straight shots, and while that’s an exaggeration, it seemed about right. The reason Duke could only cut six points off the deficit was because the homeward-bound Heels scrapped and clawed for eight of their 15 amazing second-half offensive rebounds during that dry spell.
The Dukies were beginning to match Carolina’s defensive intensity, when the sixth-man began an uproarious and vulgar chant directed at Blue Devils bad boy Grayson Allen. It was unlike anything ever heard in the dome named for deceased Dean Smith, the Carolina gentleman who likely would have stopped the game, grabbed the microphone and told everyone, “We don’t do that at Carolina.”
And his team might have lost all its momentum and the lead for good. But the wine-and-cheese crowd kept acting like some extra sharp cheddar and pulled the four starters in double figures and the contributing rest of the roster through to a pulsating win that rivaled the 1992 Bloody Montross game and the 2005 Marvin Williams put-back comeback.
The rivalry that never disappoints had to leave Coach K pondering where all this wining and cheesing is when he needs it.