Duke battled back most of the game in what could have been a Carolina runaway at Cameron indoor stadium with UNC taking a 12 point lead it truly looked like the Blue Devils were in for a blowout loss. UNC’s offense proved as turnover prone as Duke’s did but the Tarheels have shown this season they have much more of a margin for error than this young Duke squad. UNC managed to turn 15 Duke turnovers into 30 points while the Blue Devils managed only 20 points off of 16 UNC turnovers. Stated very simply – If Duke takes care of the basketball they are a winning basketball team – when they don’t they lose. Even with that the Blue Devils missed a prime opportunity to gain some momentum and push the game into overtime with a late rally. But a late drive to the basket and subsequent turnover by sophomore Wendell Moore Jr. ended Duke’s hopes of winning. Duke didn’t even get a shot up. Opportunity lost. Which feels like a running theme.
Time is off the essence for a Duke squad who has lost 5 out of their last 7 games – falling to .500 for the season. Losing to UNC in a normal season is always heartbreaking but for Duke it very well could be season breaking. As Coach K struggles to get his message across to his young squad the season is seemingly passing them by. It’s at a time where moments of adequate play isn’t enough. This game ended as it began – with a Duke turnover a true symbol of what feels like a season lost. In true Duke vs UNC style the game was competitive but one team executed and one could not maintain a consistent level of intensity. It’s never been a characteristic of youth to appreciate history or their place in it but if there isn’t a switch turned on for this team and a level of both urgency and desperation achieved they will miss the tournament and their season will end early. There’s not much worse in college basketball than failing to match or reach expectations and having the weight of history swallow you but at the current pace this team will be watching whatever March Madness looks like from the comfort of the Washington Duke Inn. “Next Play” has been a phrase used and expressed throughout Coach K’s time at Duke, it simply means not to dwell on the mistake but to look forward and create and embrace the next opportunity. What happens when there is no “Next Play”, all the “my bad” and “my faults” in the world cannot bring back a season or provide more opportunities for this young squad and time is quickly running out.