Duke 85, North Carolina-Chapel Hill 84
February 8, 2012
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Here we go. Shall I use the blue? Why not.
DENIAL IS A RIVERS IN CHAPEL HILL: Not that it was ever really loud, but how quiet did the Tomb go on Austin Riversí absolutely unbelievable shot? Wow. In replays, Bias looked like he was using a hanky to wipe away tears - - Austinís shot came from almost directly in front of the Espenators, so plenty of delicious slow-mo ďletís see that againĒ calls from the truck showed Bias apparently dabbing his cheeks and Bullethead just staring openmouthed. I love it.
PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: Oh, and since Rrhoid mentioned in his pitiful postgame presser that he didnít have a problem with the Duke players piling on Rivers on the court, I assume that he had a huge problem with it. Whatever. It was adorable. My favorite parts of the aftermath were the huge hug that Dawkins, the first one to reach Rivers, gave to Austin, Masonís under-the-basket fist slam, after which he was jumped on by his little brother, and Quinn Cook taking a moment to pop his jersey at the NCCH student section. Yeah, that last part wasnít right, but . . . who cares? Anyway, what a wonderful show of emotion from a team that has been accused by many, including the author of this siteís material, of not having much chemistry.
DID AUSTIN RIVERS SAVE DUKEíS SEASON? Well, Iíd like to see a convincing game at home resulting in a win (I speak of Saturday, in fact) before I can be sure that he got it back on the right track, but for the moment, yeah, he pretty much did. Moreover, whatever this team accomplishes, this was a legendary moment that will live forever. Even if we flame out early in the NCAAs, as long as the Tools donít win the title (something that I rate as about 800-1, even assuming they get the usual cupcake bracket), this will have made the season. What a clutch shot and what a win.
THE FINAL 2:38: So basically, it went like this. NCCH scored its final field goal at the 2:38 mark. After a timeout from Horseface, which must have nearly killed him to take, Kelly missed a three because Henson got a finger on it, but the ball sailed out of bounds, resulting in a Duke team rebound, after which TT hit a three-pointer from the right wing at 2:09. Roid called another timeout to get Zeller back in the game (he had been protecting him from garnering the DQ), and with 1:52 remaining, Mason Frigging Plumlee picked Ken-Dollís pocket at midcourt, passed it to TT, and TT found Curry left of the key from about 28 feet away, maybe more. Curry took an extra step (see below), no call. 82-78. At the 1:23 mark, Barney the Purple Skyper drove the right side of the lane, tripped over Thorntonís feet, but still managed to miss both Bullock on the right wing, wide open, and Henson mostly unmolested (I guess I shouldnít use that one when writing about college sports anymore) under the bucket. Kelly slid right into position, Barnes crashed into him, and amazingly, Cahill correctly called a charge on the five-time first-team Preseason All-America. At 1:15, Kelly shot a fairly good three from the left wing, but missed, and strangely, no one on the Tools even appeared to try for the board, which bounced right into Kellyís hands, about three feet in front of him. He looked around, saw no one in seductive siren blue guarding him, and put up a little floater from about 10, which swished at 1:10. 82-80. Enter John Cahill, who probably wanted to make sure that the Tools got some sort of makeup from Kerseyís failure to call Curry for traveling before his three, and Mason gets called for breathing on Zeller about 12 feet from the basket, left side. Why Cahill didnít exercise his desire to enter a makeup call earlier, on Barnesí charge, I cannot fathom. Maybe he hates the dick too. (ON EDIT: After watching the last 2:38 with Al White on Friday night, actually, it turns out it was Kersey who called Harrybag for the charge; Cahill's first real opportunity for a makeup call was, in fact, exactly when he called Mason's nonfoul. So that explains that. My bad!) Anyway, Zeller bricked the first, made the second, and now itís 83-80 with :44 left. For some reason, Duke looks awful and neither TT (with the ball) nor anyone else on the court calls timeout, so Coach K finally requests the whistle-blow for Dukeís final TO at :20, with about nine or ten on the shot clock. Dawkins comes in for Thornton, and Rivers passes it off to Kelly, this time at the right of the key, and he shoots a three that is way left of the basket, although otherwise online. For some awesome reason, Zeller goes up for the ball, risking a goaltend, and tips it into Dukeís basket. The referees huddle, and much to the confusion of the follicle-free announcing team, who have no idea what the rule is, Cahill calls a two-pointer, which is correct. NCCH inbounds, unconstrained by any timeout from Rrhoid, and TT deliberately fouls Zeller immediately. Thornton is Dairy Queened and itís Dukeís twelfth team foul of the half. Zeller makes the first easily but shanks the second, and Mason gathers up the bound. Duke has no timeouts. Over the timeline we go, with no pressure, Rivers all the way, and with about six seconds left, Mason screens Bullock off of Rivers, leaving Zeller on Austin. Bullock needlessly follows Mason toward the basket, under which Henson is busy erecting a tent city. Dawkins gets free of Barnes at the top of the key (ON EDIT, sorry, I thought Marshall was guarding Dawkins for some reason, but he was in the corner on Curry), but with almost exactly one second left, Austin rises up to shoot from about 22 or so feet, over Zellerís outstretched arms, and everyone watching knew the shot was good the second it left the kidís hands.
And no, Doug Gottlieb, Zeller is not to be faulted for not ďsticking his hands up.Ē He actually did, if you bothered to watch the replay. He was a little bit off of Rivers, but if Rivers had put up a shot and Zeller had bumped him, Zeller would have fouled out. (Ignore for a moment that Zeller apparently doesnít know what we all do - - no ACC striper makes that call at the horn, ever, and especially not to the detriment of UNC-CH.) If Rivers drove, a closer Zeller almost certainly would have bumped him, and that probably WOULD have generated a whistle, and put Austin on the line for two to tie it up.
BLOWING MY STACK DEPARTMENT: ďDepartmentsĒ are really for the Two Dukies previews, but I need to vent a bit more over the asinine, frankly outrageous deployment of Stallball on Dukeís final possession of the first half. Why - - assuming that it ever works, which it almost never does - - is Stallball appropriate there? No oneís really that tired, no one on the court is in foul trouble, and youíve played a terrific half. Youíre down one on your archrivalís home court and the crowd is just starting to get into it. If you run the shot block down to zero, there will be 10 seconds left for NCCH to possess the ball. So . . . Stallball? Seriously? I just donít get this guy, and again, I really struggle with ďthe Greatest of All TimeĒ and stuff like that when I see this kind of absolute insanity in action. If you donít want to run a play, pass the ball around. Run the weave, for crying out loud. Maybe somebody misses a screenswitch and you get a good shot in spite of yourselves. But hereís what you donít do - - heave up a desperate shot from Quinn Cook that leads directly to a Barnes-to-Bullock fast break, giving the Tools an almost unquantifiable amount of momentum going into the locker room. (Interestingly, Seth was credited with an o-board off of Quinnís miss, and Barnes with a steal - - watching it live, I figured that Barnes would just get credit for the carom.)
This imbecilic play very nearly cost Duke the game, because it unquestionably fueled the Twinksí second-half run. I simply donít get it. Stop this craziness. Please.
RIDICULOUS STATS: Here are a few for your viewing pleasure.
(a) NCCH did not attempt, let alone make, a field goal over the final 2:38 of game action.
(b) Zeller attempted 14 field goals in the first half, and one - - yes, one - - in the second stanza. Expounding on this for just a moment, I believe this was actually due to a halftime adjustment (!!) by Roid, who, as it turns out, usually can make pretty good halftime adjustments. He just canít figure out what to do while the game is actually transpiring. Duke played a pretty masterful first half, with the exception of Krzyzewskiís complete brainlock on the Blue Devilsí last possession, and that was because they limited Barnes and directed, consciously or not, most of the Toolsí scoring to Zeller. They also allowed Henson to shoot uncontested from the elbow or the side of the basket. Since Duke was obviously hell-bent on chucking threes, and presumably planned to continue doing so post-intermission, I think Deputy Dawg concluded that Zeller wasnít going to beat Duke by himself. Thereís just something about wing players that tends to fire up a crowd more, particularly if those wing players start hitting threes, and of course threes are (stay with me here) more valuable than shots in the paint. Then thereís Zellerís somewhat emotionless approach to the game, which we can starkly contrast against Barnesí loathsome showboating and other antics. He just doesnít inspire huge swells of fan excitement; heís more workmanlike. Then thereís his inability, for the most part, to pass the ball when covered tightly. This all adds up to mean that although Zeller is by far UNC-CHís most talented offensive player, he actually canít be the primary focus of the Twinksí offense; if he is, they lose energy and become a lot more vulnerable. Itís a strange conundrum, and maybe Iím off my rocker in perceiving it, or even more off my rocker in thinking that Roid is thinking along the same lines, but Iím pretty sure that the ball went away from Zeller and toward Barnes in the second half by NCCH design. And although Duke came back and won, this was not good for the Blue Devils. One more thing, which I have not seen another soul mention: Zeller was visibly exhausted at the end of the first half, probably from getting bodied up (if unsuccessfully) by the Plumlees. Remember, heís a fragile player and not all that physical; heís actually more of a finesse guy who happens to be 7-0 with great post moves. So I think he was very tired, and Horseface reacted accordingly. It all worked out in the end, but this was part of the reason for NCCHís second-half surge.
(c) 1-6 from three-point range. Seriously? Does this sound like a national title contender to you? Barnes made the lone one, in three tries; BullAAAAAAAAAAAAHK only put up one, which, as youíve doped out, missed. P.J. Hairbag missed two. By the way, some people had it as 1-7 after the game, possibly due to some errant ESPN.com box or something, but it was 1-6.
(d) Duke only lost the rebounding battle by seven (42-35), and in the second half, the teams secured 20 boards apiece. Given the fact that Duke was hoisting a lot of long bombs that, if they missed, plopped right into Stick Figureís mitts, this is pretty astonishing.
(e) Rrhoid played his bench for a combined 25 minutes, including two ticks for Still Waters White and one for Watts. (The great Desmond Hubert, who relieved Zeller late in the first half and actually recorded an assist on a pretty nice pass to Phone Pole, was credited with the dreaded ď0+,Ē something I wish they would get rid of.) That isnít going to work out particularly well in the NCAA Tournament either, particularly if someone gets in (gasp) foul trouble. Especially if itís Zeller or, worst case scenario for the femme-blue, Marshall. By the way, McAdonít recorded four fouls in 12 minutes.
(f) NCCH only had six fastbreak points, two of which came with a big shiny bow, a massage, a suggestive sax solo, and a bottle of wine from Mike Krzyzewski.
LITTLE HELP? So what was the most shocking thing about the Zeller tip-in, which will go down in history as one of the weirdest moments in the rivalry, and would only have been sweeter if it had happened to John Henson?
(a) Neither Bullethead, Vitale, nor Bias knew the rule, despite accepting large checks on a regular basis from Bristol for announcing collegiate basketball games. I hear that Jay Bilas even PLAYED organized basketball.
(b) John Cahill got the call right.
(c) Almost no scribe analyzing the game bothered even to mention it. This reminds me of something. In football and baseball (at least at the pro level of each), media writeups of games routinely focus on ďquestionable calls,Ē and add some analysis. In baseball, these situations are usually pretty cut and dried - - the guy who was called out was clearly safe, the called third strike was obviously way outside the zone, the home run was a foul ball. In football, given the almost frenetically complex pass interference rules, and the new evolution requiring players to make a ďfootball moveĒ or a ďmove in the ordinary course of playĒ before a completed catch will be deemed to have been made (to take just two examples), the rules in question are a little more complicated, but theyíre still discussed.
Now, I donít watch the Association (although my yearly Neeba fantasy team, naturally named ďThe Tools,Ē is somehow currently in first place, assuredly not for long) or read any coverage of its games, but is there some particular reason why very, very few writers, and certainly no beat writers or recappers for large-circulation publications, will ever touch rules questions in postgame writeups? I donít get it. Itís like no one really cares to understand the rules, and letís just get on with discussing the game already! Weird.
(d) The actual rule in question, correctly applied by Cahill, provides that once a three-point try is clearly not going to succeed, any tip-in of that try by a defensive player will result in only two points being awarded to the offensive team (i.e., the team that shot the ball). This makes a certain degree of sense on a couple of minor levels, but for the most part, itís more than a little baffling.
(e) Many people online have stated that the Duke player closest to the ball either did get credit for the two points or should have gotten credit for the two points, but thatís completely incorrect, and did not happen. Ryan Kelly was awarded the two points, not Mason, the closest Duke player at the time of Zellerís wizardry.
(f) I think this is my favorite part of the whole sequence. Austin Rivers, who passed the ball to Kelly to set up the shot, actually got credit for an assist on the play. Really?? I mean, assists (along with steals) are complete judgment calls in the first instance, but canít we all agree that an own-goal tip-in destroys the dime for the player who originally passed to the shooter? I realize they canít give a Duke assist to Zeller, although that would be fun, but since Kelly was awarded the basket on a technicality, Iím pretty sure the assist needs to come off the books.
Anyway, Zeller is a pretty decent kid, and although this helping hand obviously helped Duke to win, I felt bad for him (just better for Duke). It was a bizarre chain of events for any game, let alone one with this kind of meaning, with only 14 seconds left. By the way, if Zeller had not tipped the ball in, Iím pretty sure someone would have blown the whistle and called goaltending. But then, these referees are being compensated by an organization whose checks are written by NCCHís former athletic director - - a fact that was not lost on us Duke fans for most of the night.
SMALLEST SURPRISE: Those of us watching Bristol missed the first four to five minutes of clock because Syracuse and Georgetown did the unthinkable - - go to overtime. When does THAT ever happen, right? I donít need to appear here to inform you that there was no splitscreen, no use of ESPN Classic to show the opening minutes of our game, nothing of the kind. We were all just out of dadgum luck, as Rrhoid would tell us. Amazingly (or perhaps not), when Syracuse won and the horn sounded at the Carrier Dome, Musberger went on about a sixty-second monologue about Boeheimís victory, him moving past the Grand Proboscis, et al, before finally announcing that ďquickly, now,Ē our noble programmers were going to take us to the game they were contractually obligated to carry. A little late for any quickness there, The Brent. Iím not minimizing Boeheimís accomplishment one bit - - I particularly think itís awesome to have him chasing Krzyzewski, just 40 wins behind - - but how you donít get out of there immediately, I do not understand. Maybe our game was in a timeout, although I donít believe it was.
DENOUNCING THE ANNOUNCING: Bullethead was reliably awful. Bias was coaching NCCH the entire game, and talking about the game as if it mattered only to them. Once or twice, he supplied some Duke-focused perspective. Dickie V, however, once again amply illustrated what Iím going to call the Vitale Principle from here on out. If Vitale has relatively sedate partners, heís a very good announcer, and with Bias sucking all of the good vibes out of the arena in the first half as his favorite team played poorly, and Bullethead acting, as usual, like he downed a five-barbiturate lunch, Dick was fine. With Mike Patrick, though, Vitale is unbearable. The other person or persons at the table have to control him, or itís some good points mized in with a lot of palaver.
So, whatís the over/under on how much Calamari paid for each mention of Kentucky? Iím going with $10,000 per hit. Maybe weíll find out in the NCAAís 20-volume report leveling sanctions against the Mildkittens for ten seasons, due to be issued in 2015.
Finally, of course, we have both Bias and Bullethead calling the win "a theft" and "stolen," respectively. Aw, guys - - I'm really sorry your team didn't win.
ZEBRAIC ZAPS: They were atrocious, even by ACC standards. Kersey blew his whistle about eight or nine times the entire game, and Nestor failed to call any technicals despite Henson bumping him to try to get to Dawkins and Rivers during that stupid scrum after Bullock kicked Austin not once, but twice. Amazingly, however, Nestor called the final shot a three, didnít say that it missed beating the horn, didnít call a technical on Chris Collins, et cetera. Thanks, Tim. Cahillís worst moments included getting almost every block/charge call wrong, with the exception of the very key charge on Prince Harry with 1:23 left, taken expertly by Kelly, and then calling Mason for that supposed pushing foul on Zeller with :44 left when Mason simply had his hand on Zellerís back for about a second, maybe less. This had to be a makeup call for the non-travel on Curry a minute and four seconds before.
And yes, Curry did travel, but he didnít take four steps or whatever NCCH fans and the ESPN crew was trying to claim. You canít travel without the ball, and he didnít have it for the first one of those steps. For the other three, he did, and he moved his pivot foot before releasing the ball, but it wasnít SOOOOO obvious that it was an outrageously blown call. In fact, it wasnít among the top ten worst calls in the game.
By the way, turns out Zeller hit Austin on the hand right after the shot, too. So much for Nestor getting everything right on that play.
CLASSICALLY JOINED: Although the people running the live EspeNetworks are clods, ESPN Classic seems to be operated by a different, much smarter group of individuals. Those worthies immediately packaged this game with the ďGone in 54 SecondsĒ game (Duke @ Maryland, College Park, 2001) and showed the two back-to-back on Thursday. Clearly, they perceived that Dukeís comeback in this one was just about as miraculous as the JW-fueled collapse of Garyland in that gem from 11 seasons ago.
DID I MENTION? That was a Bootsy by Austin. Tee hee! Talk about clutch. 9-16 from the floor, while going 6-10 from beyond the arc, works for me. One of the greatest regular season performances in recent Duke basketball history - - and thatís saying something. Thanks, AR.
NEXT UP: The Pennzoil NASCAR team, led by home construction expert Terrell Stoglin, invades Cameron on Saturday afternoon. Howzabout a little fire from the crowd?????
If I missed anything, please feel free to add it, or append your comments about the game, below. Thanks as always for reading.