Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game appearance gave the Blue Devils a vital assignment on Saturday night: cap Coach K’s decorated 42-year run in Durham with an inspired win.
Also, in front of 96 all-time great Duke players once coached by Krzyzewski — present at Cameron Indoor to commemorate the coaching legend on his final night.
The contest was all about Krzyzewski, until time ran out and the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrated their win over Duke, 94-81.
The narrative was inescapable for UNC coach Hubert Davis, which is why he braced his team (namely his starters) for a contest that could prove grueling in order to overcome the storyline.
All five starters for the Tar Heels stayed on the floor for the entirety of the second half, coming out of halftime down 41-39.
RJ Davis helped revitalize North Carolina’s offense in the win. He ended the game with 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
Davis was one of four UNC starters to score 20+ points.
“This has been a tournament team for quite some time,” noted the CBS commentary, also seen throughout the Tar Heels’ 55-point second-half performance.
“We knew coming into the game it would be a lot of noise … but this is Carolina basketball. We knew coming in we were gonna win the fight and win the game,” Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot said after the contest, scoring 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting.
Coach K’s storybook ending at home was torn by UNC’s determination. Krzyzewski finishes the 97-game series against the Tar Heels with a 50-47 record.
OutKick founder Clay Travis called it “one of the all time buzz kills wins.”
When asked about his former players showing up to watch his final performance, Coach K’s gratitude for 42 years spent in Durham showed ahead of Saturday night’s game.
“By being in one place and having a good level of success throughout, you’re able to form a lot of friendships,” said Krzyzewski.
A postgame celebration for Krzyzewski allowed the coach to deliver a final speech to his home fans and players.
Krzyzewski understood the weight of the evening and spent most of his time on the microphone apologizing for the loss.
“This isn’t part of the program,” said Krzyzewski. “I’m sorry about this afternoon.”
The crowd grumbled at the coach’s harsh evaluation, but Krzyzewski still had the floor.
“Everyone be quiet,” Krzyzewski said, reminding them that there’s still Blue Devils basketball left in his final run.
“It’s unacceptable. Today was unacceptable. But the season has been very acceptable. The season isn’t over.”
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela