NC Basketball Roundup: Duke wins, N.C. State, UNC lose at home

On Saturday in North Carolina, Duke basketball won a huge game, while N.C. State and UNC fell on their home courts.

Saturday was an eventful day in NC college basketball as Duke and UNC welcomed back key players, while N.C. State hosted the sixth-ranked team in the country. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels and Wolfpack, they couldn’t defend their home court. The Blue Devils on the other hand notched a big-time road win at Syracuse. Duke now moves to 8-2 in the conference, and potentially back in position for a number-one seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

N.C. State was competitive throughout most of the first half against Louisville, but wound up losing by 20.

As most Wolfpack fans are accustomed to by now, N.C. State was back-and-forth with sixth-ranked Louisville throughout most of the first half; however, the Pack allowed Ryan McMahon to make six threes in the opening 20 minutes, thus giving the Cardinals a 15-point advantage heading into the locker room. State would rally to within four during the opening part of the second half, but would be outscored 21-5 during the game’s final 11 minutes. The Wolfpack fall to 14-8 on the season and 5-6 in conference play.

After Saturday’s loss, N.C. State remains without a marquee win this season. The Virginia win appeared to be sending the program in the right direction; however, since the victory in Charlottesville, the Wolfpack has lost three-straight, including winnable games against Georgia Tech and UNC. If State wants any chance at making the tournament, they had better turn things around in the conference slate. That starts with Markell Johnson who is shooting just 17 for 47 over the recent three-game skid.

Despite the return of Cole Anthony, UNC’s dreadful season continued on in a 71-70 loss to Boston College.

With the Heels having won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December, things seemed to be looking up in Chapel Hill. Add in the fact that Cole Anthony tallied 26 points in his return Saturday night, and things certainly seemed encouraging for Carolina. That being said, though, the optimism didn’t last long, as UNC trailed for most of the second half against Boston College, and missed yet another game-winner in the final seconds. The game versus BC marks the third time in the team’s last four losses where Carolina had a shot to either win or extend the game in the final five seconds.

Following another crushing loss, this year’s UNC squad can’t catch a break. With 10 ACC games remaining, the Heels already have the third-most conference losses of any team under Roy Williams at UNC. Saturday’s loss marked the ninth time this season where the Tar Heels committed more turnovers than they had assists. It was also the 19th time they finished with double-digit turnovers. UNC now sits just a half-game ahead of last place in the conference with tough consecutive matchups against Florida State and Duke next week.

Duke won 97-88 on Saturday night in the Carrier Dome as they downed Syracuse for the third-straight time.

For the fifth time in the last six meetings, the Blue Devils came away victorious over Syracuse on Saturday night. The win marked Duke’s second in a row at the Carrier Dome, and was Coach K’s ninth over his rival Jim Boeheim. Duke never trailed in the second half, as Vernon Carey scored 14 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes. The Blue Devils have now won three in a row after losing to Louisville in mid-January, and remain in the thick of the regular-season ACC title hunt. Duke will have a chance to stay on pace with the Cardinals as they prepare for contests with Boston College and UNC this week.

As they’ve done for most of the season, the Blue Devils continued to show why they’re one of the teams to beat against Syracuse. Unlike most years, there isn’t an outright “favorite” to win the national title this season. Instead there are 8-10 teams who are all equally talented, and could each potentially take home the championship in April. With that being said, Saturday’s win over the Orange showcased a dynamic Blue Devil offense, and a plethora of scorers. Once Wendell Moore gets fully back into the swing of things, watch out—this might just be the best team in college basketball.