February 10, 2010
At halftime of Wednesday's night's Duke-North Carolina matchup, Roy Williams and Tyler Hansbrough stood at center court together as the former Tar Heels star's No. 50 jersey was raised to the Dean Dome rafters.
Would anyone have blamed Williams if he asked Hansbrough to suit up in the second half?
A 64-54 Duke victory increased the Devils' ACC lead to a full game and extinguished any last shred of hope that North Carolina might be capable of a late-season surge to get back into the NCAA tournament picture. The defending national champion Tar Heels (13-11, 2-7) have now lost seven of their last eight, tumbling all the way from the top 10 in the nation to 11th place in the ACC.
At least this time North Carolina changed up the formula a little bit, responding to Williams publicly questioning the team's effort by showing unusual hustle and grit on defense, yet generating little production offensively.
The Tar Heels shot 34.5 percent from the floor, committed 12 turnovers and rarely got the ball inside where they might have enjoyed an advantage. Supposed lottery pick Ed Davis had just four points on 2-for-4 shooting and repeatedly got killed on the glass, further proving that the NBA general manager who selects him in the top 15 should be fired on the spot.
Just how bad was North Carolina on offense? Well, Duke shot 22.5 percent in the first half and got combined 1-for-26 shooting from inside the arc from stars Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek, yet the Devils still took a one-point lead into the break.
Aside from 9 of 18 3-point shooting and a 19-12 edge on the offensive glass, Duke's offense was just as finger-nails-on-chalkboard bad as North Carolina's. Singler, Smith and Scheyer combined for 53 of Duke's 64 points, yet shot just 18-for-52 between them.
Just before Duke pulled away late with a 12-2 run to start the final four minutes, ESPN's Erin Andrews caught up with Hansbrough in the stands.
"I'd give anything to be out there right now," Hansbrough said.
The Tar Heels would have given anything to have him.