New Orleans – Coach K’s career has come to an end.
North Carolina once again played as the final villain in Saturday’s final match in front of 70,602 people at Caesars Superdome.
With 28 seconds left, Caleb Love’s Dagger three-pointer gave the No. 8 seeded Tar Heels a four-point lead with a free throw to help them get out of the mess. With 10.4 seconds left in Trevor Keells’ free-kick, Love (28) threw a pair of free-kicks to seal the victory before making it 79-77.
UNC (29-9) advanced to meet Kansas at the National Championships (9:20 ET, TBS) on Monday, ending Mike Krzyzewski’s storytelling career and the chance to win a sixth title. They had earlier ruined Coach K’s final home game on March 5 at the Cameron Indoor Stadium. Krzyzewski is now officially retired and assistant Jon Scheyer is Duke’s new head coach.
‘Both teams played with their hearts’:Six defining instances of North Carolina and the Duke’s last four classics
Sensation:Coach Kay’s gift to Duke’s players after their last four defeats: relieving their pain
“Coach K is unbelievable,” said North Carolina coach Hubert Davis. “That team is the best team we’ve ever played on. We had to do a few more games tonight.”
That play came in the last two minutes of the adventure. Duke Guard Trevor Keells’ three-pointer with 2:05 left gave the Blue Devils a 71-70 lead and then UNC captain Brady Manek counterattacked with his own three points. Wendell Moore Jr. took a three-pointer to give the Blue Devils a 74-73 lead in the next game. With 1:01 to go, UNC guard RJ Davis’s free-kick gave the Tar Heels a 75-74 lead, setting up Love’s heroism in the final minute of the match. Two free-kicks by Mark Williams in the last minute cost the Duke dear.
“You do not define a season with one minute in one game or two,” Kraisevsky said. “You define a season based on what happened throughout the season. It’s been a year for us.”
However, the Blue Demons wanted to win it all. Now North Carolina – behind an enthusiastic first-year coach at Davis – has won on the biggest stage of a rival game popularly known as “the greatest sport in college basketball history” and the “sport of the century”.
Davis said throughout the week that he loves when his team plays emotionally. Love, on the advice of his coach, focused hard on a group of North Carolina fans and former Tar Heels players, making a three-pointer in the back and getting ready to give UNC a decisive 45-41 at the start. Second Half 16:21 left. After a poor shot in the first half, UNC increased its security in the second half, especially when it came to painting, and stopped for outside shots.
“We’ve playing in a national championship,” Davis said. “One of the things our team has done well is celebrate a victory but focus our attention on what happens next. I want them to celebrate tonight. That’s important.”
Tar Heels was in the bubble of the NCAA Tournament in early March. Now they are playing in the national championship. At the start of training in October, Davis decided to put a photo of the Superdome in his players’ lockers, and now that belief system has succeeded. UNC won their best player, Armando Bacot, with an injury in the final five minutes of the match – an ankle injury before returning.
Duke’s Paulo Banchero led the Blue Devils with 20 points, but Duke was unable to convert them. They scored just 5 for 22 from outside the arc and were hampered by a series of errors early on. Bench player Keells scored 19 points from the bench playing a massive game for Duke.
“I think we all left it there and played happily,” Keells said. “We had fun there. We came in short, but we definitely had fun there.”
Follow college basketball correspondent Scott Gleeson on Twitter CScottMGleeson.