Duke basketball’s five most heartwarming Dean Dome wins

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore puts back a rebound for a game-winning score at North Carolina (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore puts back a rebound for a game-winning score at North Carolina (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball wins at UNC, 2016 (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

4. Ol’ Roy apologizes, blames Dean Smith?

No. 20 Duke at No. 5 UNC

Feb. 17, 2016

74. 434. 73. 441. Final

Amile Jefferson was out for the season with a foot injury he had suffered in December. Plus, Matt Jones sat out the second half in Chapel Hill with a sprained ankle, leaving only five Blue Devils worthy of significant minutes. And Duke, the defending national champion, came into the game with six losses, having just reentered the top 25 (where the program has now been every week since).

Meanwhile, UNC was in the top five as a legit title contender (and might have ended up the national champ if not for a sweet April shot from Villanova’s Kris Jenkins). Therefore, Dean Dome fans arrived with high hopes that the Tar Heels would snap the Blue Devils’ three-game win streak in the series and begin to reverse the trend that saw Duke win 10 of the previous 13.

Brice Johnson put up a double-double in the first half — he finished the game with 29 points and 19 rebounds — propelling UNC to a four-point lead heading into the locker room. After the break, Duke hung around, thanks in large part to freshman sensation Brandon Ingram, but didn’t hold the lead until a Luke Kennard 3-point swish from the corner with 2:37 to play put the Blue Devils ahead, 72-71.

ALSO READ: The 10 silkiest Duke shooters of the 2010s

An easy layup on the other end from Kennedy Meeks gave the lead right back to UNC. After a miss by Ingram, the folks in Chapel Hill were on the verge of erupting in celebration.

But under order from Williams, the Tar Heels began to play safe with only a one-point cushion, trying to milk the clock, resulting in a Grayson Allen steal and drawn foul on a transition layup attempt with 1:09 on the clock. With a sly, confident grin, the Dukie every UNC fan despised calmly stepped up and hit nothing but net on both free throws.

UNC had THREE TIMEOUTS, none of which Williams would use.

Instead, frustrated home fans had to watch as the Tar Heels again turned the ball over to Allen.

Yes, Allen settled for a contested jumper with 20 seconds to play, sparking some life into the UNC faithful. No, it didn’t matter because Williams decided to simply watch as time was expiring while his players couldn’t come up with diddly-squat against Duke’s lockdown defense.

What came next was quite a treat to Heel-loathing Duke fans like myself. During his postgame press conference, Williams sort of apologized yet essentially just blamed — while denying that his words were placing blame — his poor decision-making on his former mentor, legendary UNC head coach Dean Smith, who had passed away the previous February:

“Coach Smith taught me — and I believe this, I’m not blaming it on Coach Smith, it’s my call. I think you should always attack before the defense gets set…We didn’t get as good of a shot as I thought we would get but that’s something I’ve always believed in. I say it’s my fault. If we had to do it all over again tomorrow night I’ll probably do the same thing cause I think that’s the best way to play.”

Good stuff…