Thursday night offered up two spectacular prime time matchups, and boy did they deliver. The first game on the schedule was when the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels traveled eight miles down the road to take on the No. 18 Duke Blue Devils. Following this game, No. 5 Oregon was ready to challenge No. 10 UCLA which was sure to be another instant classic considering the way the first matchup concluded.
Perhaps the most awaited games of the year are when the two top tier programs from the state of North Carolina square off. This historic rivalry dates all the way back to January 24,1920. From then on, Duke and North Carolina have met at least twice a year with the result most likely impacting the outcome of the ACC champion. Yet again, both squads are looking for a huge marquee win to solidify their spot in the NCAA tournament.
Coming into the year Duke was ranked at the top of every poll in the country with so much talent returning, and a solid incoming freshman class. However, up to this point in the season, the Blue Devils have fallen short of those expectations. A big win against a top 10 opponent is just what Duke needs to upgrade their resume, and that’s exactly what they got. This game lived up to every expectation, having 17 lead changes, nine ties, and neither team being able to exceed their lead past double digits. Grayson Allen lead the way in scoring with 25 points (7-12 from 3), and continued to hit big shot after big shot Freshman Jayson Tatum made his impact felt in the second half, scoring all 19 of his points, along with adding a game high nine rebounds. A big three from Allen and a couple free throws later, and Duke was able to hold off the Tar Heels in a 86-78 victory. These two teams with face off again, in what is sure to be an outstanding game, Saturday, March 4th.
No. 5 Oregon and No. 10 UCLA competed earlier in the season, in what might’ve been the game of the year with Dillon Brooks draining a fade away 3-pointer with 1 second left to give the Ducks a two-point win. Oregon started this game off absolutely on fire, continued leading the way in the half to a 48-39 halftime lead. Nevertheless, the Bruins weren’t finished just yet. After being down 19 points in the first half, UCLA was finally able to claim the lead after an Aaron Holiday 3-pointer shredded the net with four minutes to play. It was still a two-point game with 34 seconds left when superstar guard, Lonzo Ball drained a deep (and I mean DEEP) step back 3 to extend the Bruins lead to five. UCLA ended the game on a 33-15 run, on their way to an 82-79 victory.
While these two games headlined the night in College hoops, they weren’t the only thrillers. No. 7 Wisconsin squeaked out an overtime win at Nebraska to avoid the upset. The Huskers lead most of the overtime quarter until Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin drilled a 3-pointer with 18.4 seconds left, which was eventually the game winning basket. In another game that nobody saw coming, the Wofford Terriers were able to survive against Samford in a 4OT thriller. Fletcher Magee scored a career-high 36 points, and teammate Eric Garcia also poured in 31 of his own to help the Terriers hang on.