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 rival UNC (Mandatory Credit: Allsport/ALLSPORT) /

3. Brickey’s block gives birth to first

No. 9 Duke at No. 2 UNC

Jan. 21, 1988

434. 69. 441. Final. 70

UNC head coach Dean Smith reigned supreme over the ACC, even more so inside the building bearing his name. His Tar Heels had lost at home only once since the Dean Dome’s inception two years prior — not to Duke — and entered the season’s first meeting against the rival from Durham on a nine-game win streak.

I was seven at the time. And this battle serves as my first vivid memory of rooting for the Blue Devils with my mood on the line.

Another reason it stands out is that my cousin was born during the game. Knowing that he would be growing up in an extended family divided by two shades of blue, I took it upon myself to forever remind him of what happened the night he was born. My plan to mold him into a Duke basketball fan worked, resulting in one more knowledgeable debater on my side every Christmas.

Of course, the most heartwarming reason for me to always remember the evening was the pure joy I felt by watching Smith’s Tar Heels lose in front of fans sobbing about the officiating and crying about Duke’s brash 40-year-old coach, whom they would soon start referring to as “ratface.”

One more reason it stands out is that my immediate family adopted a puppy shortly after the game and chose a name to honor the game’s hero: Brickey.

Danny Ferry — my first Duke basketball hero — had fueled his team’s surprising dominance for much of the game. However, in the final 10 minutes, point guard Jeff Lebo repeatedly found big man J.R. Reid — the first two of countless UNC players I would utterly detest — who feasted inside against the program that had won only once in Chapel Hill across the previous 21 seasons.

Tied at 69 with under a minute to play, Duke sophomore forward Robert Brickey — an uber-athletic North Carolinian and 6-foot-5 role player — began showing flashes of what would become his most memorable role on several occasions as a Blue Devil: a problem for the Tar Heels. He relentlessly attacked the basket, picking up two offensive boards in one possession, ultimately leading to Ferry’s trip to the charity stripe, where he hit only the first of two attempts.

UNC came up empty on its ensuing possession, but a hectic sequence in the final 30 seconds followed. A miss by Duke on the front end of a 1-and-1, a pair of questionable out-of-bounds calls, a couple of ill-advised shots on both ends, and a ton of bumping that probably should have drawn fouls — sounds familiar — led to the Tar Heels with the ball beneath their own basket down one with five seconds to play, culminating in a 20-foot open look from Lebo in the corner that looked to send the home fans home happy.

Wait, did I say “open look”? Sorry, not open at all, as Brickey’s bounce and right fingertips emphatically stated by swatting Lebo’s shot attempt into Duke basketball lore, thereby handing the Tar Heels the first of three losses in the rivalry for the season (Coach K has now seen three of his teams pull off such a three-game season sweep while never once allowing any of his UNC nemeses to do the same in return).

Yes, I would grow up to further appreciate the Duke-owned Dean Dome…